Practice makes perfect with world-class training tools: Data, Detection and Diligence (Part 4)

Enbridge’s pipeline simulator program helps control center operators sharpen their skills

Like the airline industry, Enbridge believes that no incident is inevitable or acceptable.

And there’s another airborne parallel in our drive for increased pipeline safety, notes Cam Meyn.

“You wouldn’t put a pilot into a new airplane that he’s never seen or heard of before, and ask him to fly across the country,” notes Meyn, supervisor of the leak detection testing and research team within Enbridge’s Pipeline Control Systems and Leak Detection (PCSLD) department.

“It’s the same thing for a pipeline operator. We don’t ask them to operate a pipeline without providing a training environment for them.”

For years, that’s what Enbridge’s PCSLD department has done for operators at Enbridge’s Control Centre in Edmonton, where we monitor conditions on our North America-wide crude oil and liquids pipeline network on a 24/7 basis.

And just like flight simulators, Enbridge’s pipeline simulators are uncannily close to the real deal. Computerized hydraulic models, these pipeline simulators are designed to imitate the physical and operational characteristics of the real pipelines. The simulators are then connected to Enbridge’s SCADA system, allowing operators to run them using the same interface used for the actual lines.

“We wanted to provide the most accurate training tool possible, so we’ve also developed various scenarios for each of the simulators as well—including abnormal operating conditions like leaks, communication outages and instrumentation failures,” says Adam Shockey, an analyst in the testing and research department.

“A leak is something you hope you never see, and these training simulators show an operator what a leak would look like,” he adds. “Operator training is heavily based on recognition and response, and these simulation programs offer an opportunity to practice both.”

Pipeline simulators have been used by Enbridge operators for more than 20 years. The current program, using the latest in computerized modelling technology, also allows for training on new pipeline operations before that particular line enters into service.

“Say we want to move a new product down a certain line for the first time,” adds Shockey. “Our operators can do a dry run, so to speak, on the simulator before it happens in production.

“Enbridge’s dedication to continuously improving its suite of pipeline simulators,” he says, “is a clear indication that operator training and pipeline safety are both something our company takes very seriously.”

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

Part 3: Keeping watch with a ‘defence in depth’ philosophy