North American Oil & Gas Pipelines

JUL-AUG 2018

North American Oil & Gas Pipelines covers the news shaping the business of oil and gas pipeline construction and maintenance in North America, including pipeline installation methods, integrity management innovations and managerial strategies.

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20 North American Oil & Gas Pipelines | JULY/AUGUST 2 018 (flight and maintenance) and main- tenance concerns (battery life cycles, props, sensors, etc.) to consider. One early adopter that is testing the feasibility of using drones for leak detection is Heath Consultants Inc., which developed its RMLD-UAV as part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency- Energy (ARPA-E) program. The RMLD-UAV takes a smaller ver- sion of Heath's laser-based Remote Methane Leak Detector (RMLD), mates it to a UAV and uses it for methane leak detection. Started in 2015, the project is a col- laboration between Physical Sciences Inc. (PSI), in conjunction with Heath Consultants, Princeton University, the University of Houston and Thorlabs Quantum Electronics Inc. The drone flies a pre-programmed pattern around a facility searching for leaks and if one is detected, the drone circles the poten- tial leak source and calculates the emis- sion rate. "We are performing test flights all around the United States and Cana- da. We've also flown after Hurricane Harvey in Beaumont and Port Aran- sas, Texas," says Paul Wehnert, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Heath Consultants. "The drone is specifically designed for natural gas leak detection, upstream, midstream and downstream." While Heath's use of the drone is focused on leak detection, Wehnert says additional uses of the technology within this sector include inspection of well sites, gas plants, compressor sta- tions, bridge crossings and other inac- cessible terrain. Along the Right of Way As a pipeline operator, Marathon Pipe Line LLC (MPL) is another early adopter of UAV technology, purchasing its first drone in 2017 and quickly grow- ing its fleet to 13, with 18 FAA licensed pilots and five taking courses to receive the FAA Part 107 licensure. MPL's goal is to have an sUAS and trained pilots in each of its service areas. "In the spring of 2017, MPL pur- chased its first drone, a DJI Phantom 4 Pro. Our first use for the drone was to inspect flooded waterway cross- ings in areas where it was difficult to access on the ground," says Karen Byers, damage prevention supervisor at MPL. "We had always used a heli- copter in these situations in the past, but using a drone allowed us to have first-hand, real-time information." The focus for MPL remains to use the drone to inspect locations where it would be difficult or pose a safety hazard to access on foot. It is also used for project planning, pre-bid plan- ning and emergency response. With a year of drone operation under its belt, MPL is now looking at the feasibility of using video and images to integrate with its GIS software to create 2D and 3D maps. The latest addition to the fleet is a SwellPro SplashDrone, a wa- terproof drone that can be put to use in hurricane and other wet weather- related events. One of the biggest advantages Byers has seen thus far is having quick ac- cess to data that was not available to the company in the past. For instance, during flood situations, areas would be- come inaccessible. Now, with a drone, MPL's crews can fly over the area and accurately assess the environmental conditions that exist. "In order for us to be competitive as a company we must find new ways of doing business across all aspects of our operation. Drones are certainly no small part of this," she says. "We are constantly exploring where we can integrate drones into our day-to- day operations." One year of use did not return enough quantifiable data, but Byers believes that MPL will start seeing a cost savings by using this new aerial technology. One of these potential areas of cost- savings is expedience. Drones give the crews access to imagery onsite in nearly real time, instead of having to wait for it to be returned when using a helicopter or an airplane. There is a safety aspect of not putting an employee in harm's way to gather data over difficult terrain. A safer project almost always equates to a more profitable project. The formation of Asset Drone and MPL's first drone purchase are two of many examples of drone technology gaining prominence following the FAA ruling. Another example, announced at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017, was a strategic alliance between John Deere and Kespry. The alliance opened up John Deere dealerships as sales points for Kespry's drone technology. "Deere has a portfolio of solutions that includes, telematics, grade control systems, payload weighing and several other elements of technology that help our customers get done what they need to get done every day and track their progress," says Andrew Kahler, product marketing manager, John Deere Work- Sight. "We wanted to add drone tech- nology to that portfolio." Unlike the Asset Drone technology, which can be customized to suit a cli- ent's specific needs from site imagery and topography to the addition of sen- sors for a bevy of data acquisition tasks, the John Deere solution is solely fo- cused on jobsite data acquisition. Customers can use the drone to mea- Heath Consultants is testing the feasibility of leak detection via drone using its RMLD-UAV.

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