Natural Gas Pipeline Sensors

New low-cost natural-gas pipeline sensors can be deployed widely to inspect the underground pipelines that convey and store natural gas, often within densely populated regions. More inspections and more data mean earlier warning of potential problems.

California is the second-largest consumer of natural gas among the 50 states. Pipelines are inspected rigorously to ensure safety and integrity, even as demand and capacity grow. Current methods — from in-person inspections to the use of small robots to find defects, corrosion, or barely-detectable leaks — are expensive, provide data that is not easily archived and accessed, and can disrupt operations and service to customers.

Our work is developing next-generation pipeline sensors to dramatically advance pipeline safety. New sensor concepts are being designed, fabricated, and tested to monitor gas pressure and flow, detect defects in welds, and spot water accumulation and corrosion inside the pipelines.

The new devices are designed for low-cost manufacture, ensuring widespread use and a fuller picture of pipeline health. They sense during normal operations, allowing more frequent inspection and timely maintenance. They communicate wirelessly, slashing installation costs and yielding electronic data that can be analyzed readily to forecast trouble. Completing the innovative package, integration with a 3D geographic information system will give future operators better tools to visualize and respond to pipeline problems.

AME researchers

MEMS flow sensor

MEMS flow sensor

 

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