Research Development and Innovation
We are continually looking for opportunities to enhance existing energy technologies and advance new ones.
Over the past 5 years, we’ve invested more than $61.4 million in research, development and innovation that’s helped to make our energy infrastructure systems safer, more reliable and more efficient, and to reduce the carbon intensity of the energy we deliver.
Our commitment to innovation across our operations drives ongoing investment in industry-leading technologies, processes and methods focused on integrity, reliability, leak detection and damage prevention. We’re supporting a wide variety of projects such as fiber optic pipeline monitoring to big data applications that enhance the efficiency of our pipelines and wind turbines.
We manage a portfolio of legacy investments in emerging energy technologies—such as concentrating photo-voltaic solar—that have the potential to diversify our energy systems and to accelerate the transition to a lower carbon future. For more information on these investments, visit our Enbridge.com.
3 performance objectives:
- Enhancing the safety, integrity and efficiency of our energy delivery systems
- Supporting advancement of emerging energy technologies
- Demonstrating industry leadership
We have two focus areas for R&D and innovation:
Systems integrity, leak detection and damage prevention, which takes place primarily in our Liquids Pipelines, Gas Transmission and Midstream, and Utilities business segments. We’re focused on researching, testing and assessing the best new technologies including advanced pipeline-monitoring systems; new tools to prevent, monitor or mitigate corrosion, cracks and deformation; and real-time leak detection technologies. We work in partnership with vendors and industry consortiums to develop new technologies, conduct in-house field-trial investigations and evaluate emerging technologies.
We apply advanced technologies and are looking at innovative processes and techniques across specialized areas on our system, such as Line 5 at the Straits Makinac and on newly constructed pipelines. As we focus on an innovative culture we are also making improvements on how we operate our system, which positively impacts our customers and stakeholders.
Renewable and alternative energy, supported primarily by our Power Operations groups, continues to support innovative pre-commercial energy generation technologies including geothermal, renewable natural gas and power-to-gas conversion as a means of energy storage. We also invest in technology development programs to enhance the efficiency and capacity of our green power assets.
Enbridge continues to be an active supporter of advancing and incorporating new technology through industry associations such as the Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada and Pipeline Research Council International, and consortiums including Operations Technology Development (OTD); and NYSEARCH.
In 2017, our Operations team successfully continued its push to improve our capabilities in condition-based monitoring and advanced analytics through investments in monitoring systems. These improvements have allowed our assets to leverage data provided by the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. The initiative has allowed us to optimize our fleet availability and also begin to detect potential component failures undetectable through ordinary visual inspections. Optimization efforts have contributed to higher levels of asset performance and reduction in lost revenue due to downtime.
Enhancing our Systems
In 2017, we invested about $22.5 million in technology development and innovation projects.
Highlights in our pipeline businesses include:
- Field testing Hifi Engineering’s High Fidelity Dynamic Sensing (HDS) technology on our Norlite diluent pipeline. HDS uses multiple “senses” to detect pipeline leaks and prevent incidents.
- Partnering with NDT Global to develop next generation pipeline inspection tools.
- Enhancement of how we assess and remediate geohazard and dent threats across the system using finite element analysis; risk based solutions, satellite technology and strain gauge technology.
- Installing floating roof trackers on the top of some of our large oil tanks in Northern Canada to monitor floating room movement and behavior resulting in better management of tank maintenance.
To improve the operational reliability of our wind power projects, our Power Operations group carried out a number of pilot programs in 2017:
- Development and implementation of Performance Analytics and Situational Awareness (PASA) – an advanced analytics solution that helps optimize wind power performance. We are expanding our data analytics systems and programs to our offshore wind turbines in Europe.
- Installation at our Ontario and Quebec wind farms of prototype de-icing technology to improve operations in severe winter conditions. Icing is a critical challenge for wind power in northern climates. We’ll conduct a technical review in 2018 to determine which technologies are most effective and expand their deployment.
- Over the 2017-2018 winter period, we also tested various paint coatings designed to protect the edges of wind turbine blades against ice buildup. If the results of the tests are successful, we expect to increase our turbine operating times during winter.
|Investment amounts in R&D and Innovation||~$12,155,000||~$18,335,000||$22,500,000|
For more information, please visit the Innovation page on enbridge.com.
Supporting Advancement of Emerging Energy Technology
Using energy more efficiently: Our gas distribution utilities―Enbridge Gas Distribution (EGD) and Union Gas―are advancing innovative technologies and investing in research initiatives as well as demonstration projects to support their demand-side management (DSM) programs and additional incremental integrated energy solutions to help their customers improve energy efficiency, reduce GHG emissions and save money.
Current initiatives, undertaken directly as well as through collaboration and partnerships with other utilities, universities, governments and manufacturers, include:
- integrated solutions for net-zero homes resulting in zero net GHG emissions, including such technologies as micro-generation units, battery storage, solar PV and carbon-capture systems;
- natural gas heat pumps for space heating and cooling and domestic hot water applications; and
- a hybrid heating solution (an electric air-source heat pump combined with a natural gas furnace to determine optimal fuel-switching point).
For more information on our DSM programs, please see the Climate Change, Emissions Reduction & Energy Efficiency section of this report.
Generating clean energy: Enbridge supports a number of initiatives related to emerging technologies, focusing on: compressed natural gas (CNG); renewable natural gas (RNG); and geothermal energy for heating residential homes.
Our gas distribution utilities are also working to identify and promote viable new technologies that are energy efficient and contribute to reduced emissions and improve clean energy. For example, Enbridge has partnered with Hydrogenics to pursue construction of a power-to-gas (P2G) plant, and initiating engineering studies for hydrogen blending. This P2G technology has the potential to become an important link between Ontario’s electricity and natural gas systems.
In addition, Enbridge is supporting hydrogen research and development through committees of the Canadian Gas Association and the American Gas Association, as well as through the HYREADY joint industry project. HYREADY is a consortium of 11 European and North American natural gas distribution companies that is developing practical processes and procedures for introducing hydrogen produced from renewable sources into natural gas pipeline networks.
Demonstrating Industry Leadership
We continue to shape industry best practices and technology development through our involvement in various R&D-related industry associations and initiatives. As part of our commitment to improving pipeline safety, we are collaborating with other pipeline operators to evaluate best-in-class external leak detection technologies.
We also actively advance R&D and technology innovation through a number of industry research organizations, including:
Every year we conduct a significant number of pipeline inspections using sophisticated in-line inspection tools that incorporate leading imaging and sensor technology. These tools are capable of scanning for features that could indicate potential problems related to corrosion, cracking, mechanical damage, deformation, or manufacturing or construction defects.
To further strengthen this monitoring, Enbridge’s teams of in-line inspection (ILI) analysts use a process called enhanced survey analysis (ESA) to assess all of the pipeline features our ILI tools have identified―even ones the tools have defined as ‘non-critical’. Through ESA, our ILI-analysis teams conduct a series of data checks and joint-by-joint evaluations of new ILI data. This includes comparing the new data to previous inspection results to identify areas of corrosion growth. They also review non-corrosion anomalies to determine if further evaluation is needed.
Through their rigorous analysis, our ILI analysts provide us with a second line of defense in our efforts to ensure the integrity of our pipelines systems—enabling us to pinpoint potential trouble spots that our ILI tools initially defined as non-critical and then carry out field inspections and remediate any features that could lead to a pipeline failure.
Over the past several years, the North American pipeline industry has experienced several failures of girth welds, which join two sections of pipe along their circumference, on recently constructed pipelines that use high-strength X-70 steel pipe. These failures have been characterized by localized strain at or near the girth welds. Some of the failures have been discovered during hydrostatic pressure testing, which the industry uses to test new and existing pipelines. (Hydrostatic testing involves filling sections of pipe with water to a high pressure and maintaining the pressure for a prescribed period of time to confirm the integrity of the pipeline.)
To address this girth-weld issue, Enbridge’s Gas Transmission and Midstream business segment has organized a joint industry project―titled Enhanced Strength and Strain Capacity of X-70 Pipeline Girth Welds―to investigate and mitigate the conditions contributing to these pipeline failures.
Enbridge is leading the $1-million project, which is collaboratively funded by a consortium of 20 pipeline operators, pipe manufacturers and steel producers. Linepipe steel composition and mechanical properties will be investigated, as well as enhancements to field welding practices. The two-year program is scheduled for completion in 2019.