Startup uses small sensors to check North Dakota oil pipes

June 21, 2018 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — New technology will soon be taking internal readings of 15 small pipelines across the western part of North Dakota.

The Piper is the size of a golf ball and filled with acoustic sensors. The small sphere will be inserted at one end of an underground pipeline and flow along with whatever liquid is being carried, checking for clogs and leaks, the Bismarck Tribune reported .


A startup called Ingu Solutions developed Pipers as part of the Intelligent Pipeline Integrity Program (iPIPE), a research and development grant matching project by the North Dakota Industrial Commission. The three-year program is focused on advancing new pipeline leak detection and prevention technologies.

The iPIPE consortium was formed in response to Gov. Doug Burgum’s challenge to have zero oil and gas industry pipeline leaks, said Brian Kalk, development director for the University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center’s energy system.

The consortium’s plan is to test a new technology each of the program’s three years. Ingu was chosen as the first for its unique target market, small gathering pipelines that deliver liquids from remote well sites in the state’s western region. The pipelines have a diameter of less than 8 inches (20.3 centimeters), are unregulated like the larger transmission lines and spread across more than 300,000 miles (482,780 kilometers) of U.S. oil fields, said Ingu CEO John van Pol.

North Dakota having a large portion of those miles makes the state “a sweet spot for our market,” van Pol said.

The Pipers currently have to be shipped back to Ingu for data retrieval after being run through the pipe for as many as 24 hours. Van Pol said the startup is working on building its artificial intelligence capacity to speed the time of data analysis, with a goal of 72 hours.


Information from: Bismarck Tribune,