Advanced technology for leak location and sealing is launched

Advanced technology for leak location and sealing is launched

A novel method of leak detection and sealing for oil pipelines has been designed by a team of researchers from the Department of Engineering, at the University of Aberdeen.

The technology offers the industry a method of solving a series of generic pipeline integrity problems that adversely affect the oil and gas industry in terms of flow assurance, lost production, health and safety and environmental considerations. Development of the technology has been supported by Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept funding.

The sealing and detection system has been named ATLLASTM (Advanced Technology for Leak Location and Sealing). ATLLASTM is the result of “design by analogy”. The way in which the human body responds to cuts and wounds provided the inspiration for the pipeline repair technology. It utilises the fluid flow inside the pipeline to deliver specially designed plateletsTM to a leak. When these plateletsTM reach the vicinity of a leak, pressure induced forces draw them towards it and hold them against the pipe wall. This facilitates a temporary sealing, and through the use of a transmitter device embedded into the plateletTM, its position, and therefore the location of the leak, can be found.

This method enables the pipeline operator to continue to run the pipeline at normal flow, and to schedule repairs at a time most suitable to the company. The technology can be applied to any pressurised pipe flow so markets include oil and gas, water, chemical, nuclear, food, and process industries.

Iain Chirnside, the Development Technologist employed through the Proof of Concept funding, has now been awarded a Scottish Enterprise/Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship to further develop the technology and investigate the significant commercialisation possibilities.

Commenting on the project, Mr Chirnside, said: “As the ATLLASTM technology will not be at a stage of generating sales revenue in the short term, funding will be required to meet the costs of this pre-revenue stage. The Enterprise Fellowship will equip me with the skills to develop a sound business plan, which will be necessary to attract the level of investment required by high-growth technology start-ups.”

Brian Nixon, Director of Energy for the Scottish Enterprise Energy Team, said: “I believe that this is one of the most exciting new pipeline integrity technologies of recent years. Scottish Enterprise is delighted to have been associated in the development of this technology which has huge market potential. This only serves to underline the importance of the industry and Scottish Enterprise working in close partnership with academia.”

A spin-off company from the University will be the vehicle to the commercialisation of the technology. This company will then aim to work with the North Sea oil industry to improve the current ATLLASTM technology that would allow a testing schedule to enable sub-sea field trials to take place.

Dr Ian McEwan, Lead Academic with the project, added: “The leak detection and sealing device developed through this project promises to be a breakthrough in pipeline management with the potential for uses world-wide in the prevention of oil leaks. It could mitigate environmental disasters occurring, and prevent potentially huge financial losses to the oil companies. Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept funding has allowed us to begin to develop this product and investigate its full potential as a method of leak detection and sealing.”

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