How one CEPA member is using futuristic 3D technology to look at their pipelines … underground

3D visualization has become a new tool in Enbridge’s safety kit — part of the company’s perpetual quest to continuously improve the monitoring of its pipelines at the highest possible level.

The holographic 3D digital twin collects data from numerous inspection and prevention techniques used to diagnose pipeline fitness, such as in-line inspection tools, strain gauge sensors and LiDAR (light detection and ranging).

“Enbridge is quite diligent about using overlapping inspection and prevention techniques to diagnose pipeline fitness. But the challenge lies in the fact that there is no way of quickly and effectively visualizing all of the data that’s collected,” notes Tony Khoo, manager of Enbridge’s advanced analytics team.

“Much of the information exists as Excel files, and becomes a struggle for our pipeline engineers to visualize multiple data sets—and understand the underlying data relationships to one another.”

So, Enbridge, Microsoft and Port Coquitlam, B.C.’s, Finger Food Studios put their heads together and created the digital twin. It provides a 3D rendering of pipeline sections, allowing engineers to see all the data on those sections at once in a visual form.

This allows Enbridge staff to literally visualize anomalies in the pipe.

To test the technology, project managers merged 132 sets of pipeline data and terrain information from a 2.25-square-kilometre pipeline right-of-way area in northern Alberta. Then, they created a mixed reality environment, viewed by wearing Microsoft’s HoloLens glasses.

The glasses allow the user to rotate, zoom in on, and expand the virtual image of the pipeline.

Enbridge sees further potential uses for “augmented reality” technology. In other industries, benefits have included a reduction in maintenance costs, shorter design process timelines and improved training.

“By leveraging such visualization technologies, our engineering teams have the potential to improve speed, understanding and collaboration in their decision-making,” said Khoo.

CEPA members are committed to continuous improvement, and incorporate advanced technologies into their pipeline monitoring systems to ensure that they continue to safely and responsibly deliver the energy Canadians use every day.

For more on Enbridge’s project, see http://www.enbridge.com/stories/2018/march/virtual-reality-3d-holographic-pipeline-digital-twin.