2013 Winner: Outstanding Achievement In Applied Technology And Innovation Sponsored By SAIT
Using Fibre Optics To Detect Oil And Gas Leaks
In the oil industry, leaks affect production, can cause environmental damage and are expensive to repair. Even the smallest leak can be costly.
Mr. John Hull understands that, having worked in open-hole and cased-hole services for almost a decade. From his experience as an electrical engineer he recognized the need for a cost-effective way to identify the source of leaks in oil and gas wells. In 2008 he established HiFi Engineering. The Calgary-based company develops fibre-optic technology for underground well monitoring.
The company took raw fibre, added a novel series of innovations and created a globally competitive business. The dedication, commitment and determination of Mr. Hull and his talented team at HiFi are poised to make Alberta a recognized leader in fibre optic sensing for the oil and gas industry and Canada a globally recognized leader in pipeline leak detection.
“Our technology is 100 times more sensitive than conventional tools and has the potential to resolve leaks in just one attempt,” Mr. Hull says. “It can traditionally take up to 15 attempts to stop a leak if its source is not properly located, with an average of $50,000 per attempt.” He adds that a leak that would take hours or days to locate, only takes minutes with HiFi’s technology.
HiFi’s big break came in 2009 when Mr. Hull secured $1.1 million in financing through the Cenovus Energy Environmental Innovation Fund to commercialize the company’s leak-detection technology.
In 2011 HiFi released the MiQro system, which measures specific points in millimetres; and the MaQro system that measures several kilometres simultaneously. Then in cooperation with the Alberta Research Council, HiFi designed, engineered and commercialized the VentMeter™ surface leak monitor. The precision instrument measures low volume vent gas leaks. It is the most advanced leak measurement tool in the world and in demand globally.
The VentMeter allows precise quantification of the leak problem; then the MiQro system finds the source of the leak, the remediation is carried out efficiently and the VentMeter confirms that the problem is solved. The technology can help save producers millions of dollars in solving leaking wells, getting problem wells back into production and eliminating environmental hazards.
Since it was established HiFi has developed, patented and commercialized MiQro technology that has been applied in over 450 wells in North America. The company counts among its clientele Cenovus, Husky Energy and Shell Canada.
The experience developing the MiQro system for downhole application has encouraged the HiFi team to look at other applications in SAGD installations, strain measurement for offshore oil rigs and pipelines and industries where high signal-to-noise ratio is critical to acquiring meaningful data.
HiFi is working with the University of Waterloo to develop a system that will take independent measurements – like temperature and pressure.
“We have developed game-changer technology that is positioned to solving leaking well problems throughout the world. And we will continue to work on the technology until we develop a tool that can predict and prevent leaks,” Mr. Hull says.
“Hopefully with our industry partners, we can provide renewed confidence to the public and governments that hydrocarbons can be transported safely in pipelines.”