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iPIPE gaining out-of-state attention

A Bakken consortium of companies aiming to stop pipeline leaks altogether is attracting out-of-state, out-of-Bakken interest. The iPIPE consortium recently accepted its first out-of-state member, DCP Midstream, a Colorado-based subsidiary of Phillips 66.

“DCP liked the model so much they wanted to be part of it, so they became a member last month,” said Jay Almlie, iPIPE leader. “That is eight members now, including one with no North Dakota assets, which we think bodes well.”

Almlie said they are also in discussions with additional companies beyond North Dakota boundaries that are interested in joining the initiative.

“Each company brings more membership dues, and that is more funding in the pot to research these technologies,,” Almlie said. “And they get to decide what to do with that money to test more technology.”

Beyond that, however, Almlie said the out-of-state interest speaks well for the industry as a whole.

“These companies are really doing everything they can, including reaching out for technology that isn’t even ready yet, to operate pipelines safely,” he said. “They want to push Star Trek technologies for pipelines, so they can do business in the best possible way.”

North Dakota has 27,000 miles of gathering lines in the ground, a majority of which are not designed for leak detection. That’s because the nature of gathering lines themselves presents particularly difficult design issues.

Not only are the lines hooked up to multiple wells with irregular patterns, which means highly varying flow rates, but the liquids themselves are prone to “breaking out” into vapor. That means even if you know what went in, you don’t necessarily know how much should come back out.

“If it was easy, we’d have already done it,” Brent Lohnes, with Hess Corporation said.

Hess is one of the founding members of the iPIPE consortium, formed not long after Gov. Doug Burgum issued a challenge to industry to reach a zero spill rate.

“There are just a lot of physical things, as well as design limits on gathering lines that preclude the leak detection technology available today,” Lohnes said. “So that is why we are partnering with technology providers, to help us develop the next generation of leak detection that we could apply.”

Other founding members of the collaborative include Equinor and Oasis Petroleum, which initially pitched the idea. ONEOK, Good NIght Midstream, Andeavor and Whiting quickly joined the effort.

The collaborative is working with the Environmental Energy Research Center, which helps them choose which technologies to test, a la Shark Tank style. After that, the companies put the selected technologies to the test in the field, trying to prove them out in a scientific way. That helps give the companies that last boost they need for success, while also helping to accelerate the technology more quickly than might otherwise occur.

For its first year, iPIPE reviewed seven potential solutions and chose two for testing. One, from Ingue, uses a small, golf-ball sized device to “listen” to a pipeline with a system of acoustics and gyros to “hear” leaks before they are noticeable. The device can also provide data that companies can use to optimize their operation.

The other, from Satelytics, uses satellite images to analyze small changes that would be unnoticeable to the human eye that could indicate a leak is imminent or in progress.

For 2019, iPIPE is doing a phase 2 study with Satelytics. They have also chosen a company called Direct-C out of Calgary that uses a “smart paint” sensor, placed in the ground, to detect leaks. The third technology selected for 2019 is Insitu, a Boeing subsidiary, which will be using drones for leak detection.

Blackout Energy is an industrial equipment provider located in Williston, North Dakota that offers heaters, light towers, coolers, frack stands, and fuel rigs for other businesses. The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of its authors and were not written by Blackout Energy. This article was originally published by Williston Herald.