Fiber optic pipeline leak detection systems are not new, but are growing in popularity in the oil and gas industry. Additionally, this leak detection technology could quite possibly bridge the gap between environmentalists and pipeline companies and finally resolve the pipeline impasse.
Pipeline safety has long been an area of concern and the use of fiber optic cable to detect leaks is helping to vastly improve leak detection in real time. Distributed Temperature Sensing (DTS) and Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) are two methods of leak detection that rely on fiber optic cable as a component of the system.
Both DTS and DAS have cable installed along the length of the pipeline to be monitored. If a leak occurs while using the DTS method, the substance being monitored comes in contact with the cable and a temperature variation is measured by the system and triggers an alert. In the DAS technique, vibrations caused by the substance leaving the pipeline via a leak are sensed in the fiber optic cable, thus triggering an alarm. DAS can also determine if vehicles or construction equipment is getting too close to the pipeline. Both methods can pinpoint even the smallest of leaks down just a few feet while some systems all the way down to the centimeter.
According to Bloomberg, Enbridge Inc is installing the technology on a 20-mile stretch of the Norlite pipeline in Northern Alberta and TransCanada has plans to install the technology on sections of the Keystone pipeline in Hardisty, Alberta and around their terminal in Houston in 2018.