EERC-led project aims to reduce oil spills | Prairie Public Broadcasting

EERC-led project aims to reduce oil spills

Dec 18, 2019

Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

UND’s Energy and Environmental Research Center is heading a program to more quickly detect weaknesses and leaks in pipelines.

It’s called the “intelligent Pipeline Integrity Program” – iPipe.

EERC’s Jay Almlie said it brings together researchers and industry to test new technologies. Almlie told the state Industrial Commission about some of the successes. One is “Pipers,” a company based in Calgary, Alberta. It uses a golf-ball sized device, dropped into the pipeline.

"This really is 'Star Trek' technology," Almlie told the Commission.

Almlie said the device is packed with a number of sensors. He said it basically floats in the pipeline, and it can detect a lot of things about the pipeline.

"It can tell us certain things about the pipeline's wall health," Almlie said. "Is it corroding? Is it failing? Are the joints weakening?"

Almlie said it can also pinpoint the pipeline's location. And he said it can listen for leaks.

"It has ears on board, listening for the 'whistle' of leaks as it passes through," Almlie said.

Almlie said the device was tested in 15 places across North Dakota. And he said it’s one example of the projects being explored to reduce leaks.

The industrial Commission awarded the iPipe project another $1 million from the state’s Oil and Gas Research Program.

"We have a goal of zero leaks and spills," said Gov. Doug Burgum, the chairman of the Industrial Commission. "In light of some recent spills, this work is more important than ever."

The project is in its second year.