Safety First

Innovation

Enbridge actively supports research and innovation, as we aim to adapt and harness technology to improve safety and reliability.


Enbridge is continually looking for opportunities to enhance existing technologies, and advance new ones, in the areas of design, prevention, monitoring and leak detection to keep our pipelines and distribution systems safe.

We see it as our duty to work with innovators, researchers, regulators and our industry peers to drive safety and reliability performance to new levels.

We also know that the world is looking to us and other members of the energy sector to help society make the transition to a lower-carbon future, so we are investing in alternative energy and promising innovative technologies to support that change.


Safer systems, next-generation technologies

Enbridge takes the long view in driving technology forward. We commit time, resources and dollars in the interest of making our systems safer. 

A focus on innovation

In 2016, our research and development (R&D) and innovation-focused business segments and groups invested about $18.3 million (USD and CAD) in technology development and innovation projects, largely focused on enhancing pipeline fitness, leak detection and damage prevention.

Through our Emerging Technology group, we also managed a portfolio of investments in 15 innovative pre-commercial technologies.


In 2016, we led, sponsored or participated in

128

projects related to research, development and innovation.


Safety innovation partnerships

Our approach to safety is based on collaboration with other members of the industry as well as with regulators and first response agencies.

We don't compete when it comes to safety. We share what we develop and learn with our peers—all with the goal of protecting the public and the environment.


Enbridge stories: Innovation in action


A 'big leap ahead' on pipeline inspection tools

It’s about safety, it’s about reliability—and, ultimately, it’s about clarity.

“Think of this as investing in the creation of the 4K television, when 1080p high-definition isn’t good enough anymore,” says Trevor Grams, Enbridge’s Director of Research and Development.

In April 2017, Enbridge and NDT Global, a leading ultrasonic pipeline inspection firm, announced a multi-year project to develop a next-generation inspection tool—one that will advance crack assessment capabilities in crude oil and liquids pipelines.

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An early-warning system for pipeline strikes

People don’t always know what’s below. That’s why we want to be aware of what’s going on beneath the surface.

Even with our robust Call 811 and Call/Click Before You Dig public awareness campaigns, the most common source of natural-gas pipeline damage is accidental third-party strikes.

Since 2014, Enbridge Gas has been working with NYSEARCH, a collaborative research-and-development organization representing 25 natural gas utilities, on a right-of-way intrusion detection project. A project team has been evaluating damage prevention systems from three vendors through a series of blind tests, involving excavation machinery, manual digging, equipment activity and vehicletraffic.

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Detecting corrosion under insulation with the bracelet probe

It’s called the bracelet probe, and it has the potential to save plenty of bling.

The Russell NDE Bracelet Probe inspection tool, developed by Edmonton-based Russell NDE Systems Inc., uses an electromagnetic induction technique to inspect pipeline corrosion under insulation—and is now used by pipeline inspection companies, and major upstream outfits, in countries around the world. At Enbridge, we’re working to formally implement and adopt the bracelet probe as a proven inspection method.

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Smart Ball

Ultra-sensitive SmartBalls ‘listen’ for tiny leaks

A free-swimming tool with a foam shell, a SmartBall consists of an aluminum core with an extremely sensitive microphone, called a hydrophone, that takes advantage of fluids’ superiority as an acoustic coupling medium. Usually about 18 inches in diameter, a SmartBall can travel within a pipeline for up to 18 days while collecting stress, pressure, temperature and other data, and is capable of locating pinhole leaks—typically within six feet of their location.

Enbridge tested the SmartBall technology, which was developed by Calgary-based Pure Technologies Ltd., over a two-year period—and, based on need, we now use the devices along selected segments of our crude oil pipeline network.

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Fiber optics on the Flanagan South line

It’s a groundbreaking research project, and it’s now entered the soil of the Show-Me State.

After simulating pipeline products, soil characteristics, and other environmental factors with the large-scale ELDER apparatus, and gleaning some invaluable test results in an Edmonton laboratory, we’ve taken this project outside.

Using fiber optic cable alongside a 20-mile stretch of Enbridge’s newly built Flanagan South pipeline in central Missouri, this $4-million pilot project aims to land on a leak detection system that can quickly and reliably identify very small leaks, provide an accurate leak location, and provide incremental benefit to our other leak detection systems.

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Safety - inline inspection tool

A one-of-a-kind, ‘dual-diameter pig’

There’s building a better mousetrap. And then there’s building a better pig.

At Enbridge, in-line inspection tools, otherwise known as “smart pigs” in the industry, are sent through our pipelines at regular intervals, inspecting the pipe inch by inch. But how do you handle inspections for a unique line like Enbridge’s Line 4, which consists of 28 segments of varying sizes – some of them 36 inches in diameter, and some 48 inches?

You create a better pig. An ultrasonic pig. A dual-diameter pig.

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Electromagnetic examinations for pipelines

Internal pipeline inspections may be moving from shear waves to the next wave.

Electromagnetic acoustic transducer (EMAT) technology is an ultrasonic testing technique that can be used to measure wall thickness, detect small cracks, and identify irregularities in pipeline coatings—and, potentially, be used to detect and measure cracks within deformations.

Up until recently, EMAT inspection tools have been used primarily for gas pipelines. Enbridge’s EMAT validation project is currently testing this technology for potential application along our crude oil network.

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Taking the aerial approach to leak detection research

Pipeline safety research is about to go airborne. In May 2015, Enbridge Pipelines Inc., TransCanada Corporation, and Kinder Morgan Canada announced a joint industry partnership to evaluate aerial-based leak detection technologies, and their possible application on crude oil and hydrocarbon liquids pipelines.

This project will test the boundaries of scientific innovation—because, to this point, the available technologies have not been tested on such a large scope, or such a fine detail.

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Guy Meadows

Keeping the Straits safe with a smart buoy

Enbridge has sponsored Michigan Technological University’s deployment of an environmental real-time monitoring buoy in the Straits of Mackinac.

The buoy reports water current data in real time, with the information benefiting everyone using one of the most heavily traveled waterways in North America. This technological advance will also dramatically improve the accuracy of weather forecasting in the Straits.

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Magnetic tomography: A ‘non-invasive’ stress test

If a picture is worth a thousand words, these images may prove invaluable to pipeline diagnostics.

Since 2002, Russia-based Transkor has been detecting potential stress points in pipelines worldwide, using its proprietary magnetic tomography method (MTM). An MTM inspection uses the electromagnetic properties of steel to create a remote 3-D image of a pipe – identifying the location of potential stress concentrations and associated pipeline features, which may require further examination.

And MTM technology could be a game changer for the way we inspect station piping at Enbridge.

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Wrapping up the slope friction issue

Pipelines are buried through all kinds of terrain as they crisscross North America. On rare occasions, that includes slopes that move incrementally over time – at a rate of a couple of millimeters per year.

While our pipelines are engineered to manage moving forces, where necessary, an Enbridge geohazard project recently tackled the issue of incremental slope movement.

The pragmatic solution? Wrapping the pipe with low-friction geotextile fabric, a robust weave of monofilament polypropylene yarns. And the key was using two layers, not one.

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World’s longest HDD project under Mississippi River a ‘mind-boggling’ feat of engineering

When Enbridge’s Flanagan South team completed a five-week horizontal directional drilling (HDD) project under the mighty Mississippi River in early September, they not only reached the final major construction milestone of the $2.8-billion pipeline project – they also set a world record in the process.

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Enhancing pipeline performance

Since 2006, we have worked with EVRAZ North America to develop the gold standard in pipeline steel and manufacturing.

EVRAZ meets our demands for higher-quality pipe, with more rigorous and more frequent testing than industry standards, and now we have a joint R&D program to enhance pipeline performance even further.

Innovation with EVRAZ