Pipeline companies probe aerial leak monitoring

Challenge is the sensor mechanism, not delivery, data analysis leader says.

By Daniel J. Graeber

EDMONTON, Alberta, April 29 (UPI) -- Three of the biggest pipeline companies in North America signed a partnership agreement to find ways to monitor for leaks using aerial technology.

Pipeline companies Kinder Morgan, Enbridge and TransCanada each committed $200,000 to fund laboratory research and field trials to find ways to discover crude oil or other hydrocarbon leaks. Technologies under consideration include infrared camera and other detection systems that are suitable for mounting on light aircraft or helicopters.


In early April, French energy company ENGIE, formerly GDF Suez, said it was investing in Redbird, a civilian drone company, to monitor natural gas infrastructures.

The French company's venture capital subsidiary invested $2.1 million in Redbird to facilitate drone monitoring of natural gas infrastructure, survey topography and monitor "security for public institutions."

The collaboration from the North American pipeline companies includes an agreement for data analysis from C-FER Technologies in Edmonton.

"The challenge with airborne leak detection systems is not with the aircraft, but with selecting appropriate sensors to detect liquid hydrocarbon leaks before they reach the surface," Brian Wagg, director of business planning for C-FER Technologies, said in a statement.


Research into aerial leak monitoring is expected to begin in the third quarter of the year.

A 2010 pipeline spill in Michigan from an Enbridge pipeline system was among the worst onshore incidents of its kind.

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