Hifi Engineering jumps into pipeline politics with new fibre optic sensing tech

Steven Koles, CEO of Hifi Engineering, with the company's pipeline monitoring equipment at GE's Calgary Innovation Centre. Image: GE

Hifi Engineering Inc. is deploying its “made-in-Alberta” fibre optic sensing technology on a 32-kilometre stretch of Enbridge Inc.’s Norlite pipeline, as well as at key location on TransCanada Corporation’s Keystone pipeline as part of a collaborative program with Alberta Innovates.

“We have designed our technology from ‘tip to tail’ right here in Alberta,” Steven Koles, Hifi's president and chief executive officer, told a news conference on Tuesday at the GE Innovation Centre in Calgary.

“We are attempting to become — and I know it is a very lofty goal — the new standard in pipeline safety and accuracy as it relates to preventative leak detection. That puts us right in the middle of the politics of pipelines in Canada.”

Hifi is the first company to access the Alberta Small Business Innovation and Research Initiative, which provides Alberta-based small- and- medium-sized enterprises with direct market access through industry connections.

“This technology will alert operators to a possible leak in a pipeline sooner and more accurately, so that operators can reduce or eliminate environmental impacts,” said Deron Bilous, minister of Alberta economic development and trade.

“It is another way our energy industry is striving to be the world’s most responsible, reliable and sustainable provider of vital energy products.”

Hifi’s patented high-fidelity dynamic sensing (HDS) technology is designed to constantly monitor a pipeline in its entirety, detecting flows less than a litre within seconds. The technology includes proprietary fibre optic cables optimized for sensing, as well as optical hardware and software for permanent deployment and continuous monitoring. Fibre optics not only transmits data, but acts as a sensor along the pipeline.

“We can use this for preventative leak detection on a pipeline by determining the exact location of an incident and the exact time of an incident,” Koles said.

“That incident could be a leak, which is the worst kind of incident, but it could be other types of incidences as well, such as a security intrusion alarm from a construction company digging too close to a pipeline, or a geotechnical event such as an earthquake that might otherwise impact pipeline operations.”

In real time, patented software algorithms correlate acoustic, temperature, vibration and strain data to discern operating conditions such as excessive strain, thermal events, and security intrusions, Koles says. The HDS system can also detect extremely low flow and pinhole sized leaks.

“Hifi is ready to showcase its HDS technology performance on these projects with Enbridge and TransCanada to prove our technology is indeed world class, and that it ultimately can outperform-yet-compliment alternatives and traditional systems, and it is ready to assist the industry with the mission-critical path forward for pipeline safety.”

Hifi will use Predix, an industrial internet software platform patented by Baker Hughes, a GE company, in order to integrate and display the HDS real-time data.

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