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Topics of Importance R&D and Innovation: Pipeline Technologies and Emerging Technologies

Management Approach

While innovation activities take place throughout our entire company, in this report we provide an overview of our work in the areas of system integrity, leak detection and damage prevention, which takes place primarily in our Liquids Pipelines (LP), Gas Distribution (GD) and Gas Pipelines, Processing & Energy Services (GPP&ES) business segments.

We also provide an overview of investments through our Green Power Transmission & Emerging Technology (GPT&ET) group. These include our company’s interests in renewable and alternative energy and large-scale electricity storage.

All R&D-related departments within Enbridge look for opportunities to share best practices and learnings from projects.  Senior leaders from the departments, for example, meet monthly to provide project updates and discuss potential applications in our organization. In addition, our company leads and participates in collaborative R&D projects with other companies and through industry associations.

R&D and Innovation Related to System Integrity, Leak Detection and Damage Prevention

Liquids Pipelines

LP is involved in researching, testing and assessing the best new system integrity, leak detection, damage prevention and operations technologies through the following three groups:

  • Research, Development and Innovation – A centralized R&D group with a broad mandate to research, develop and test novel pipeline technologies and solutions. The group focuses on all aspects of pipeline operations including design, construction, operation, maintenance and abandonment.
  • Integrity Solutions, Pipeline Integrity – A team focused on finding technological solutions and methods to mitigate key threats to the integrity of Enbridge’s liquids pipelines systems.
  • Leak Detection Testing and Research – A team responsible for researching and testing commercially available leak detection technologies that complement or enhance current capabilities.

Together these groups support the development of real-time leak detection technologies; advanced pipeline monitoring systems; and new tools to prevent, monitor or mitigate corrosion, cracks and deformation. The projects are wide ranging and include:

  • in-line inspection tools,
  • defect assessment,
  • corrosion prevention and mitigation,
  • geohazard management,
  • improvements to facilities integrity,
  • infrared cameras for leak detection and site security,
  • fiber-optic technologies for leak detection and pipeline integrity,
  • aerial-based leak detection technologies,
  • hydrocarbon leak detection point sensors,
  • oil-on-water detection sensors, and
  • pipeline welding and coatings.

Gas Distribution

GD invests in technology development to improve its system integrity, leak detection and damage prevention capabilities. GD’s investment program is primarily managed through its Distribution Technology department, which works in partnership with vendors and industry consortiums to develop new technologies, conduct in-house field trial investigations and evaluate emerging technologies. The department also works with internal groups to implement new technologies that improve GD’s operations.

Starting in 2016, Distribution Technology plans to add a focus on potential growth opportunities for the gas distribution business, and emission tracking technologies to prepare for future regulatory changes in Canada.

Gas Pipelines, Processing & Energy Services

GPP&ES invests in the development of advanced pipeline integrity and leak detection technologies through various operating departments, including System Integrity, Engineering, Control Room and SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition).

R&D and Innovation Related to Green Power and Emerging Technology

Previously, Enbridge’s Emerging Technology Group was responsible for identifying and investing in pre-commercial technologies strategically aligned with the company’s business interests. In 2015, as a result of reorganization, the Green Power and Transmission group was merged with the Emerging Technology group to form the Green Power, Transmission and Emerging Technology (GPT&ET) group and maintain responsibility for the portfolio of investments.

Through GPT&ET, Enbridge continues to be one of a select number of energy companies that invests in innovative pre-commercial technologies.  GPT&ET searches for new technologies that could augment and diversify our green power business. Two of Enbridge’s early innovative investments—in wind and solar energy—have already moved past the incubation stage to the point where they have become meaningful and profitable business lines for Enbridge. Other investments, in geothermal and low-head hydropower, have resulted in operational power generating projects in Oregon and Ontario. In 2015, GPT&ET made follow-on investments totaling $3.9 million in technologies in its portfolio.

The group also invests in technology development programs to support its green power projects. During the year, it spent $1.1 million on pilot programs to improve the operational reliability of its wind turbine operations.