Advanced Camera Technology Helps Enbridge Track Down Invisible Emissions

Apr 22, 2013 7:45 AM ET

In recognition of Earth Month 2013 and Earth Day, Enbridge celebrates a few of the actions we are taking to track and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. 


When it comes to hunting down “fugitives” – environmental emissions that escape from tiny leaks in plant equipment – environmental specialists in the U.S.-based Enbridge Gas Transportation (GT) are increasingly turning to an advanced thermal imaging camera as their weapon of choice.

“In the natural gas transportation business, you face the challenge of fugitive emissions that are not easy to see, smell or identify.  This camera allows us to actually see these emissions so that we can fix the problem promptly,” says Trey Moeller, GT’s Environment Manager.

Fugitive emissions are gases, such as methane, carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds, lost from compressor stations, processing plants and pipelines.

To detect fugitive emissions, GT has become an early adopter of a new piece of equipment – the forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera. Combining advanced optics and software and using thermal imaging technology originally developed for the U.S. military, the camera allows users to pinpoint emission leaks in real time.

“The camera looks like a video camera and comes with a good-sized screen.  If there are emissions, they will show up on the infrared screen as a plume of vapour,” says Barry Goodrich, GT’s Environmental Systems Lead.

Goodrich says the camera provides rapid scan functionality, allowing for quicker identification and repair of leaks.  Staff can walk through plant sites, holding up the camera to screen hundreds of components in an hour, including difficult-to-access areas like vent stacks or tank roofs.  Once a leak is found, leaks are either fixed on the spot or tagged for later repair.

“You can step back and see the big picture of a facility, whether emissions are being released from large pieces of equipment. Or you can use the camera to trace piping throughout the entire plant to look at valve connections, flanges and compressor engines,” says Moeller.

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