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50 Most Admired Companies of The Year 2017

Changing the economics of pipeline inspection: Ingu Solutions

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While pipelines are critical assets for the oil and gas industry, they are also the essential infrastructure underlying much of our economies across the globe. Like so much of the world’s infrastructure, these assets are aging and vulnerable to climate events, putting large public companies, our economies and the environment at risk. Unlike roads and rail, identifying pipeline defects is that much more difficult as they are often hidden from view. Further, 40 per cent of the world’s oil and gas pipelines are unreachable using current monitoring solutions. That translates into 1.5 million kilometres of the world’s essential pipeline infrastructure unmonitored and at risk. It is a significant issue – one that should matter to all of us – but will require the introduction of new thinking and innovative new technologies to address the problem. The key considerations will be afford ability, ease of use, and universal pipeline access even under the most challenging conditions.

A Calgary-based company, Ingu Solutions, has been investigating the problem and they are now piloting their technology with some of the industry’s largest players. They call their solution Pipers™ and it is a revolutionary technology that uses miniaturized inline sensors to detect leaks, geometric defects and deposits that threaten pipeline performance and safety with zero- downtime. The technology gives oil and gas companies immediate and affordable access to 100 per cent of their pipeline assets. Further, Pipers™ eliminate the need for human intervention, reducing inspection costs, strengthening preventive maintenance, and lowering repair and replacement expenditures.

The industry is sufficiently taken with their approach that the company received the Innovation in Technologies Award at the 2017 Global Petroleum Show and Ingu is among the first companies to be selected by Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV) for its recently launched CTV Catalyst Program™, an initiative to help early-stage companies promote technology to advance the oil and gas industry around the world.

Five questions with Ingu Co-Founder and CEO John van Pol

1)What are the top concerns oil and gas operations execs are looking for you to address?

It is pretty simple. We need to help them identify leaks, pipeline breaks and any debris or obstructions that threaten the performance of their pipeline assets. We have shown through a number of rigorous trials that we can do just that. The power of our technology is that our Pipers™ can map the interior of the pipeline – regardless of composition – over great distances. Our micro sensors simply go with the flow.

2) How is monitoring typically done now?

Well, to start, about 40 per cent of the world’s pipelines are not being monitored at all. They are either out of reach using current available technology or simply far too expensive to reasonably take on. Advancements in technology solutions have been slow in the oil and gas industry. State-of-the-art monitoring today involves heavy equipment, expensive engineering consultants and significant pipeline downtime. With all due respect to the incumbents out there, it is a pretty unattractive proposition. Once operations professionals make the decision to investigate a section of pipeline under the existing model, they are looking at a lot of unknowns – including the total cost of effort. We are dramatically changing this reality.

3)How does your approach dramatically change the current operational reality?

First, our solution does not require operational downtime. This is a central concern for the industry. Second, we eliminate the need for heavy equipment and high-priced consultants traditionally associated with in-line inspection. Our micro sensors travel on their own within the pipeline and are collected at the end of the run. They are then returned to us to analyse the data. The findings are back to the customer within 72 hours. That is a significant improvement in turnaround time. But perhaps the most powerful change is that our technology does not require operations personnel to turn over their assets to us in order to do the work. They can use our technology when and how they want. It is a self-service model, which is completely revolutionary within the industry. It is an approach that allows us to also shake up existing cost structures.

4)How are costs affected by the approach?

By allowing the technology to do the work, we are taking the high costs associated with human intervention and stripping it right out of the equation. This in turn allows us to look at an entirely new fee structure. We offer Pipers™ on a fixed-price, annual subscription model – something that is entirely unheard of in the industry. This approach really makes it possible for operations execs to do financial planning with a level of certainty that currently doesn’t exist. No surprises.

5)What is next for Ingu?

We are looking forward to working with Chevron Technology Ventures through their CTV Catalyst Program™, as well as a number of other key industry pilots of our technology. We continue to successfully push through each of the industry markets put before us. We are also adding to our team and investor base. We are approaching each of these steps very carefully, as the opportunity before us is substantial. The pipeline monitoring industry is a multi-billion dollar market and we recognize that returning operational control of this crucial function will be a game changer.

Ingu Solutions began with a commitment to make a positive impact on the world we all share. "It is a self-service model, which is completely revolutionary within the industry. It is an approach that allows us to also shake up existing cost structures.”

What the industry is saying

“Excellent technology as well as a very intelligent and focused staff; they were able to work with us and adapt to meet our needs.”- JohnPaul Portelli, Shell Canada

“The INGU sensor consistently and effectively navigated challenging piping bends, unbarred tees, pipeline valves, and significant elevation risers without issue; it was easily removed from the piping with an Argus Pig Receiving Valve outfitted with a removable accessory to “catch” the device.”- Jason Weiss, Argus Machine Co.

"It is a self-service model, which is completely revolutionary within the industry. It is an approach that allows us to also shake up existing cost structures.”