Keeping watch with a ‘defense in depth’ philosophy: Data, Detection and Diligence (Part 3)

Multiple, overlapping pipeline monitoring systems provide extra layers of security

It’s an approach known as “defense in depth.”

And just like a chess board, from pawns to rooks to queens, every piece plays a key role.

“When we say defense in depth, we mean that there is no ‘silver bullet’ in the world of pipeline leak detection—and that’s why we use lots of different methods of detection,” says Phil Martin, an Edmonton-based Computational Pipeline Monitoring supervisor in Enbridge’s Pipeline Control Systems and Leak Detection division.

“Our goal is industry-leading leak detection. Our approach is to hire great people, develop excellent training and procedures, build state-of-the-art tools, and constantly evaluate emerging technologies,” he says. “Pipeline safety is the responsibility of everyone here.”

Safety is the very foundation of our business at Enbridge, and our multi-pronged approach to pipeline safety includes prevention methods such as:

Additionally, multiple layers of leak detection provide an extra measure of mitigation. They include:

  • Visual surveillance through aerial and ground patrols along Enbridge’s pipeline rights-of-way;
  • 24/7/365 dedicated leak detection analysts
  • Software based Computational Pipeline Monitoring (CPM) systems; and
  • New and emerging external leak detection systems.

Enbridge’s two foundational CPM systems are our own Material Balance System (MBS), which creates real-time hydraulic models of our pipelines, and Atmos Pipe, a widely used industry software system that’s based on statistical volume balance.


A ‘hands-on’ leak detection method: Data, Detection and Diligence (Part 1)
Scheduled fluid withdrawals test sensitivity of computerized pipeline leak detection systems
‘Blind tests’ that help keep eyes wide open: Data, Detection and Diligence (Part 2)
Regular ‘side-streaming’ simulation events test our pipeline leak detection capabilities

“MBS is really the backbone of our automated leak detection. We know the physical characteristics of a pipeline, and we know what the pressures and flows should look like, so we model them,” says Martin.

“Using state-of-the-art statistical analysis techniques, we compare that with the data that our SCADA system is reporting back to us—and if there’s an unexpected difference, the MBS alarms, and we take action.”

With Enbridge’s CPM framework, we use several overlapping systems—chosen for sensitivity, reliability and speed—that monitor pressure, flow, temperature, and other key data from thousands of points along our pipeline network.

To augment that “defense in depth” philosophy, Enbridge also uses various other automated leak detection systems, including:

  • Rupture Detection System (RDS), which targets specific rupture patterns with ultra-high reliability and speed;
  • Automated Pressure Deviation (APD), which continuously monitors a pipeline immediately after shut-in for abnormal pressure drops;
  • Automated Volume Balance (AVB), which is designed to detect very small leaks over a period of 24 hours or more; and
  • Column Separation Management (CSM), which automatically alerts our operators to situations where the pipeline is not completely pressurized with liquid hydrocarbons.

“We use these various systems with a special consideration for high-consequence areas, like large population bases, bodies of water and environmentally sensitive areas,” says Martin.

“What gets me really excited is our commitment to continuous improvement—and the way we continue to push the boundaries.”

Check out our previous instalments of the Data, Detection and Diligence series:

Part 1: A ‘hands-on’ leak detection method

Part 2: ‘Blind tests’ that help keep eyes wide open

Check back with the @enbridge blog channel for future instalments of our Data, Detection and Diligence series.