Standoff Liquid Petroleum Leak Detection

Client: Electricore Inc., TransCanada, INRS,
PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration)

INO Case Study Electricore Inc., TransCanada, INRS, PHMSA

Electricore, Inc. and INO, with support from TransCanada and the National Scientific Research Institute (INRS), are developing a transportable leak detection system that externally locates, identifies, and assesses small liquid and gaseous leaks (weeper/seepers) from a safe standoff distance.

While pipelines are one of the safest ways to transport oil & gas, some leaks may still occur. Current leak detection systems are not reliable enough in detecting minute leaks. This is a challenging problem due to the fact pipelines are underground. However, pipeline operators and leak detection service providers want to set higher and safer standards for pipeline inspection.

The solution is a remote sensing instrument for the detection of vapors from liquid petroleum pipeline leaks. When a leak occurs underground, volatile chemical components slowly migrate to the surface and form a very small cloud of gas. While a human can’t see this cloud, our technology can.

The prototype sensor includes one or more of the following spectroscopic instruments, all mounted on a mobile platform:

  • An open-path, laser-based UV Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy (DOAS) sensor
  • An open-path, laser-based IR Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy (DOAS) sensor

Remote capability up to 100 yards was evaluated in a laboratory and a simulated leak setting using different concentrations of vapors from petroleum products typically transported by pipelines.

The goal of this project is to provide operators with a powerful tool for the detection of underground leaks before they escalate. Mounted on a helicopter, the device sends light pulses to detect the small clouds of gas, and then quickly and precisely identify the leak location.

The first phase of the project was to assess the standoff detection capabilities of our platforms. UV-Raman, UV-DiAL and IR-DiAL are almost equivalent in terms of their limits of detection when looking for vapor plumes, be it through alkanes or aromatics or both.

A special type of airborne UV-LiDAR technology has been transferred and led to the creation of INO's 31st spinoff company, FlyScan Systems.