Innovative Technology To Locate and Seal Leaks in Pipelines

Aberdeen business Brinker Technology was awarded the "Sir Ian Wood Award for Innovation" at last night's "Grampian Awards 2004 for Business Enterprise" which was held in the city.

Brinker Technology, a spin-out from the University of Aberdeen, which has now been operating for 18 months, has a core technology which uses "platelets™" to locate and seal leaks in pipelines. This innovation came about after Dr Ian McEwan, an academic from the University of Aberdeen, was sitting on a train reading about the problems pipeline operators have in leak detection and sealing. While reading this document, he happened to cut his finger. This event started him thinking about how the mechanism that the body uses to seal leaks could be adapted to provide a new solution for pipeline engineers to solve leakage problems.

The outcome of this was a novel technology known as ATLLAS™ for the detection and sealing leaks in pipelines and associated infrastructure. It works by utilising the fluid flow inside the pipeline to deliver specially designed "platelets™" to the leak. When the platelets™ reach the vicinity of a leak, fluid forces entrain them into the leak and hold them against the pipe wall. This facilitates sealing, and through the use of an identifier device embedded into the platelet™, its position, and therefore the location of the leak, can be found. This technology can fulfil a number of applications for pipeline operators, such as:

  • Extend the life of infrastructure
  • Provide assurance of flow through pipeline
  • Provide an Emergency Response to loss of containment of product
  • Provide the Location of Leakages in infrastructure

Ian McEwan, now the Technical Director of Brinker Technology, explained: "Brinker Technology launched with the core technology called ATLLAS™ which stands for "Advanced Technology for Leak Location and Sealing". This technology has the potential to safeguard the environment from loss of containment effects by a number of different means:

  • It seals and locates leaks in a single integrated process thus reducing leak lifetime and consequential environmental damage.
  • It does not disturb pipeline operation so costly shutdowns may be avoided.
  • It can be implemented remotely so direct access to the leakage point is not necessary.
  • It provides an alternative means of investigating suspected leaks.
  • It buys additional time for the operator to determine appropriate course of action in the case of sudden leakage.

Ian McEwan added: "This technology obviously has a wide range of applications in the oil and gas industry worldwide - not just the UK sector. We have been looking at using the technology for providing emergency response applications to leaks occurring on large bore diameter pipelines; locating leaks on Hydraulic or Chemical Injection lines, and giving extended life to certain pipelines. There are more applications that we will be developing the technology for in the coming months."

Also attending the awards ceremony, General Manager Iain Chirnside commented: "It's satisfying to be recognised for our innovative thinking outwith our own industry sector of oil and gas."

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