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Pipeline Leak Detection - Airborne

The Industry Challenge:

Airborne pipeline inspections of pipeline right-of-ways rely almost exclusively on human observation to detect problems.

Several technologies are being promoted to add to airborne surveys which help detect small liquid pipeline leaks before the oil reaches surface; however, there are no standards or test facilities suitable for evaluating these technologies.

The characteristics of underground liquid hydrocarbon leaks are not sufficiently understood to specify what the various leak detection technologies should be looking for.

How We Help:

C-FER, with assistance from its parent company, Alberta Innovates ‑ Technology Futures, developed a variety of computer models to predict the characteristics of underground liquid hydrocarbon leaks to identify physical phenomenon that could be detected by airborne surveys.

Examples include:

  • The emission of volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere;
  • Temperature changes at the ground surface as warm fluid leaks into the ground; and
  • Ground heave as the fluid displaces the surrounding soil.

Specialized instrumentation was added to tests of inground leak detection systems in the ELDER to benchmark the computer models.

C-FER uses the model results to evaluate the potential for the various airborne sensing devices to detect small leaks.

Information is also provided to the technology vendors to help them tune or modify their products to improve the sensitivity and repeatability.

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A wholly owned subsidiary of Alberta Innovates