Ground movement detection and pipeline safety: an award-winning project from Enbridge Pipelines Inc. 

Technology is critical to every aspect of pipeline operations – from planning and construction to everyday operations.

Scientists and engineers are working every day to develop new technologies and refine existing ones. And every year, the Pipeline Systems Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers presents a Global Pipeline Award for the most outstanding innovations and technological advancements in the field of pipeline transportation.

In 2016, Enbridge Pipelines Inc. (“Enbridge”) won the Global Pipeline Award for its Southern Manitoba Slope Remediation project. We spoke with Millan Sen, an Engineering Specialist at Enbridge, to learn more about the award winning project.

Q: Can you provide an overview of the project?

Millan: As it crosses southern Manitoba, Enbridge’s Mainline pipeline network – a right-of-way with five crude oil transmission pipelines – travels through a slope approximately 24 metres high and 85 metres long.  Enbridge pro-actively installed on-site instrumentation that would be able to detect whether this slope was moving, and in 2011 based on the instrumentation measurement results, formed a geohazard project group to solve the slope movement issue detected.  In order to ensure the continued safe operation of the pipeline and the protection of the public which are Enbridge’s top priorities, from 2013-2016 pipeline stress relief and slope stabilization projects were carried out to mitigate the slope movement impacts and reduce future slope movements.

Q: What technologies were used to evaluate the site?

Millan: We used a multi-faceted approach to understand the potential issues associated with the slope movements:

Model used to establish impact of slope movement on pipelines

Q: What technologies were used to mitigate potential problems?

Millan: We take a very cautious approach in the area of pipeline safety and, based on an evaluation of the results from our model of slope movements, determined that mitigation work was required. As such, to ensure the ongoing integrity of the pipeline, we took the following measures:

    • We inspected the girthwelds on the pipeline to confirm that they were capable of  accommodating the expected slope movements
    • We fully excavated three of the pipelines on our right-of-way along the entire slope movement length and “reset” the lines to their originally constructed zero-stress positions.
    • A low-friction coating was installed on the pipelines, and low-strength backfill was installed within the trenches, to reduce the impact of future slope movement.
    • We installed strain gauges on the pipelines to allow for direct pipeline monitoring
    • As a permanent mitigation measure, we conducted a large-scale geotechnical slope stabilization program to minimize any future stress on the lines. This program included the construction of stone columns, a berm, and buttress fill.

Strain gauges installed to enable direct pipeline monitoring

Q:  Why do you think this project received a Global Pipeline Award?

Millan: At Enbridge, we’re proud of the work we’re doing to advance safety. We’re pleased to be recognized for our efforts in applying emerging technologies to mitigate the slope movement threat and ensure pipeline safety – as well as further develop these technologies and communicate the results. All these efforts not only improve safety at Enbridge, but support continuous improvement of safety across the entire pipeline industry.

To learn more about how pipeline companies are using technology to detect ground movements, check out this CEPA blog post: ‘Ground movement measurements and pipelines: how satellites are providing early warning’