This week’s Pipeliners Podcast episode features Adrian Kane, Vice President of Atmos International, discussing the practical application of leak detection in the pipeline industry.
In this episode, you will learn about the purpose of leak detection, the distinction between leak detection and leak prevention, and the key differences between approaches to leak detection in the U.S. compared to other countries/nations in the world. You will also learn how the pipeline industry is moving to the cloud to support remote work in leak detection.
Pipeline Leak Detection: Show Notes, Links, and Insider Terms
- Adrian Kane is the Vice President of Atmos International. Connect with Adrian on LinkedIn.
- Atmos International is the world’s leading pipeline leak detection and simulation provider. Dr. Jun Zhang, who appeared on the Pipeliners Podcast earlier this year, founded the company in 1995.
- Leak Detection is the process of monitoring, diagnosing, and addressing a leak in a pipeline to mitigate risks.
- Leak Detection Systems (LDS) include external and internal methods of leak detection. External methods are based on observing external factors within the pipeline to see if any product is released outside the line. Internal methods are based on measuring parameters of the hydraulics of the pipeline such as flow rate, pressure, density, or temperature. The information is placed in a computational algorithm to determine whether there is a leak.
- Leak Prevention is the study and practice of reducing the number of incidents that release oil or hazardous substances into the environment and limiting the amount released during those incidents.
- Smart Pigs are inspection devices that record information about the internal conditions of a pipeline.
- Cathodic Protection (CP) is a technique used to control the corrosion of a metal surface by making it the cathode of an electrochemical cell.
- CP (Cathodic Protection) Verification is a test to reduce the corrosion of a metal surface by making that surface the cathode of an electrochemical cell. [NACE Standard TM0497-2012]
- Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is responsible for providing pipeline safety oversight through regulatory rulemaking, NTSB recommendations, and other important functions to protect people and the environment through the safe transportation of energy and other hazardous materials.
- HCA (High-Consequence Areas) are defined by PHMSA as a potential impact zone that contains 20 or more structures intended for human occupancy or an identified site. PHMSA identifies how pipeline operators must identify, prioritize, assess, evaluate, repair, and validate the integrity of gas transmission pipelines that could, in the event of a leak or failure, affect HCAs.
- MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) is an open and freely available publish/subscribe protocol for efficiently moving data between devices. This protocol is extremely lightweight.
- SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) is a system of software and technology that allows pipeliners to control processes locally or at a remote location.
- API RP 1175 (API 1175) established a framework for Leak Detection Program management for hazardous liquid pipelines within the jurisdiction of the U.S. DOT (specifically, 49 CFR Part 195). API RP 1175 is specifically designed to provide pipeline operators with a description of industry practices in risk-based pipeline LDP management and to provide the framework to develop sound program management practices within a pipeline operator’s individual companies.
- API 1173 established the framework for operators to implement Pipeline Safety Management Systems (SMS). A significant part of this recommended practice is a training and competency aspect.
- API 1130 defines the requirements for leak detection in pipeline operations.
- API 1130 Figure C-1 (page 31) shows how a CPM (computational pipeline monitoring) system should use instrument data.
- AI (Artificial Intelligence) is intelligence demonstrated by machines in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans.
Pipeline Leak Detection: Full Episode Transcript
Russel Treat: Welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast, episode 152, sponsored by Gas Certification Institute, providing training and standard operating procedures for custody transfer measurement professionals, now offering online interactive and instructor-led training. Find out more about GCI at gascertification.com.
Announcer: The Pipeliners Podcast, where professionals, Bubba geeks, and industry insiders share their knowledge and experience about technology, projects, and pipeline operations. Now, your host, Russel Treat.
Russel: Thanks for listening to the Pipeliners Podcast. I appreciate you taking the time. To show that appreciation, we give away a customized YETI tumbler to one listener each episode. This week, our winner is Mitchell O’Malley with EnLink Midstream. To learn how you can win this signature prize pack, stick around till the end of the episode.
This week, I’m very pleased to have with me my friend, Adrian Kane, vice president with Atmos International. We’re going to talk about practical applications of leak detection. Adrian, welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast.
Adrian Kane: Hi, Russel. Thank you very much for inviting me on. I’ve been hoping you were going to ask.
Russel: I think that’s the first time anybody’s responded that way. That’s awesome.
Adrian: It’s a pleasure to be here.
Russel: It’s great to have you, Adrian. I’m looking forward to this conversation. This will probably be similar to conversations we’ve had at some of the conferences and such. We’ll just give some others the opportunity to listen in.
Adrian: Sounds good.
Russel: Tell me a little bit about your background, how you got into pipelining, and more particularly how you got into leak detection.
Adrian: When I graduated university, I was obviously looking for a job. There were quite a few companies — I was quite fortunate at that time — that were looking for electrical and electronic engineers, which is what I was. One of those companies was Schlumberger. Schlumberger immediately wanted to take me from Ireland where I’m from to Houston.
I was going to work on a tool, and it was all going to be great. They were the choice for me. I worked for them for about three years and then decided that it was time to go somewhere else. I found this little company in Manchester, England called Atmos International.
This is 17 years ago now. They were very small, but they seemed to have a great product and just great people. I just really liked them when I met them, and I guess they liked me. They offered me a job. They specialized, at that time, really only in pipeline leak detection, although we do many different things now. That was 17 years ago. That was how I got into the pipeline business.
Russel: You grew up in leak detection?
Adrian: Yes, I did. I was a project engineer. I was based in Manchester in the U.K. I was traveling really around the world except the Americas, installing leak detection systems, tuning them, doing the testing, doing training, everything like that. After three years, we had opened an office in China which, if you think back to 2005, that was [laughs] what every company wanted to do.
I moved there to be the project manager and to train the staff. It was initially just a two-year posting, but one thing leads to another. We were building the whole business in Asia and Southeast Asia as well.
I ended up staying seven years, and I went through various roles. I ended up the general manager there, which took me more out of engineering and gave me a little bit of sales and a little bit of everything else. That was a very…
Russel: Does that mean you speak Chinese?
Adrian: I do not, but my wife does. [laughs] My three year old speaks some Chinese.
Russel: There you go. I guess the way I want to dive into this is your background is unique in that you’ve done a lot of projects in the domain of leak detection. Probably, I’ll start by talking about what is the purpose, in your view, of leak detection? What is the purpose of that as a system or as a tool?
Adrian: Leak detection systems are similar to an insurance policy, almost. It’s about minimizing the damage done and hence the liability for the company, for the leak. The cost of a leak is proportional to the spill size, the volume essentially that was put on the ground.
There are some other factors such as where that happens. If the oil or any hazardous fluid can get into a drinking source, then it’s very, very serious. Leak detection really reduces the spill size. It does not prevent leaks, unfortunately, but it’s to minimize the spill size.
Russel: It’s interesting, too, because a lot of people aren’t really clear about that distinction, at least in my experience, about leak detection versus leak prevention. They’re very different disciplines.
Adrian: Yes, for sure. That is one of the problems, especially when you meet more of the executives within companies that are perhaps more in the finance or the commercial side of their business. They’re expecting that the leak detection system will stop a leak from occurring, but in fact, no leak detection system does that.
Russel: That’s right. It just minimizes the consequences. It’s consequence mitigation. It’s not a prevention mechanism. The guys in integrity management and all of that are doing prevention. They’re looking for the problems that they can correct before they become an incident or an issue.
Adrian: Some of the skills are similar. The risk analysis side of it is very similar, but they’re using different tools, things like smart pigs, cathodic protection, analyzing the age of the pipeline, its history, where it actually is, that’s more of an ongoing study that’s done in discrete parts.
Whereas leak detection, mostly the more advanced leak detection systems are continuous. They’re always looking to see if a leak has occurred.
Russel: This is one of the things I’ve been thinking about recently. When you think about what’s going on in pipeline safety management and the push to zero incidents, I think that leak detection gets harder the fewer leaks you have.
That may sound condemning. I don’t mean it that way. It’s just that we are getting better, and the fact we don’t have things to look at that are actual leaks. Those things are quite rare. It makes doing leak detection more challenging.
Adrian: It certainly does. There’s nothing sharpens the focus on leak detection than when anybody in the end use industry has a very large leak that appears on the press. There are court cases and everything like that.
When things like that happen, especially at the higher levels, we deal with some very massive companies. At the higher levels, that really focuses it and brings it back into…It certainly helps the budget come. I would always say to people, “You don’t cancel your car insurance policy because you haven’t had an accident. You never know when something’s going to happen.”
Russel: That’s right. Let me transition the conversation a little bit. Again, as I said earlier, one of the things that’s unique about your experience is you’ve seen a lot of projects and operators all over the world. What do you think are some of the key differences in approaches to leak detection when you talk about various states within the U.S. and various nations around the world?
Adrian: We can start with nations and then get smaller. The biggest thing that you see is the difference between privately owned or companies that are floated on the stock market, commercial companies that are there to make money versus state-owned corporations.
In many countries, like China or anywhere in the Middle East and many other places, all the oil companies are state-owned. They have very different focuses. Generally, what happens with the state-owned companies is a lot of the involvement is on brand new pipelines, so you get involved in those maybe five years before the pipeline is operational.
Here in the U.S., most of the pipelines are going to be existing and already operating, so you’re getting involved with pipelines that are currently running, and hence the projects are much, much faster. We tend to do a lot more projects here with a lot shorter duration.
Russel: I’ve talked about this on some other podcast episodes. The United States is quite unique in the way that its energy business is organized. One of the uniquenesses is the land is owned by individuals. That means that getting right-of-ways and maintaining those right-of-ways, I have to get rights from the actual landowners to do that.
In many countries, the government actually owns the land. If not the land, they own the mineral rights around the land, and all that creates a different reality, for sure. We tend to have a lot of smaller companies that will start an activity with the idea that I’ll build this, I’ll develop this market, and then I’ll sell it to one of the larger operators.
That means a lot of things are built to get to this point of sale, not built thinking about how they’re going to be operated for 25 to 50 years.
Adrian: You made two really great points there, Russel. Whenever you build a pipeline, you’re crossing lots of different landowners’ property. It creates a much greater need for the consent to operate. As a result, I think that drives the regulator more.
I don’t think it’s unfair to say that regulation really drives leak detection within North America. I think if the regulation wasn’t there, there would be a lot less leak detection projects done. A lot of that is related to the fact that it’s crossing multiple different owners’ lands. That makes leak detection even more important.
Russel: I would agree with you. I think regulations do drive a lot of leak detection, for sure, in North America.
Adrian: The second thing that you raised there was that it’s very, very fluid in the pipeline business within North America. It seems every bit of pipeline is connected to every other bit of pipeline that goes through the same area, but they’re not always operated.
As companies acquire different assets, they start to operate them in different ways. Even if they’ve owned the assets for a long time, they have very good commercial departments that are always looking for opportunities to sell product or to sell the service of transporting a product to someone else.
Often what will happen is a connection to another pipeline will be made, or they will change direction of flow and things like that. What that means is, when you first build a leak detection system, say in China, that pipeline will operate that same way for at least 10 years, maybe more.
If you have a pipeline here, the operation can be changing on a weekly or a monthly basis. You need to adjust and adapt the leak detection system in order to do that.
Russel: That’s a really interesting point. When you think about how international projects are justified and developed, it has to do with some long term anticipated demand, where in the US, we tend to develop those things based on something that’s a current market opportunity.
Adrian: That’s exactly right.
Russel: Interesting. I’ve never thought about it that way, but it does point out some pretty significant differences just in how these assets are conceived and deployed being very different.
Adrian: I’m bringing it back to the leak detection side. It makes the longer-term maintenance and development of the leak detection system. It makes that probably more important than the initial project phase.
Especially too, if you could be transporting hazardous fluid across the desert, of course, you don’t want to spill. If you then connect to another pipeline that takes it through the Great Lakes or somewhere like that, then all of a sudden, leak detection is even more important.
You have to be able to adjust and to change. That’s what I see with the companies here. They’re very, very good at that. They may start with a simple leak detection method on a pipeline that has a lower risk.
Whenever they change the operation or connect it to something else, they then may decide that they need to go with a more advanced leak detection method or technology to provide better coverage. All of leak detection really is based on risk analysis.
Russel: Risk is related to probability and consequence.
Adrian: Yes, yes.
Russel: Consequence changes based on all kinds of factors.
Adrian: PHMSA, though, has been very clear to point out that the high-consequences areas (HCAs) are almost always related to the amount of people in the area, to the proximity to waterways and environmentally significant or sensitive areas.
Russel: There’s lots of guidance, at least, in the U.S. about what all that is. Just taking this a little deeper around the idea of starting simple and then it gets more complex.
If somebody is building a new pipeline, and it’s a relatively simple, low risk, they’re operating it well inside of its pressure limits, it’s straight runs, there’s not a lot of fluid flow complexity, how would you guide someone to start something like that?
Adrian: The regulations always start with, you have to conduct a risk analysis of the pipeline. If it has a hazardous fluid in it, you have to have some form of leak detection. Now, that can be many different things.
It can be flying the line, it could be walking the line, it could be something simple like pressure monitoring, or it could be something like a very complex leak detection system or even multiple leak detection methods as part of the same system. The risk analysis is the first thing to look at.
Beyond that, if you ever do want to have any of more advanced leak detection system, you need to have instruments on the pipeline. The easiest time it is to add an instrument is when the pipeline is being built. If it’s a new pipeline, plan to put flow meters on it, pressure sensors, if the density is changing a lot, maybe densitometers and temperature.
Russel: My advice, just blanket advice, to anybody building any kind of energy asset is plan for the ability to put in more measurement than what you think you need, even if that’s just having long enough straight run pipe to locate it, even if you don’t put it in when you build it.
Making that change after you go into production, it’s 10 times the cost of thinking that through when you’re building.
Adrian: Globally, that has been one of the biggest challenges we’ve seen. We’ve had a lot of companies come to us and say, “We really need leak detection.” Whenever we go to look at the pipeline or look at the drawings of the pipeline, you see it doesn’t have an instrument where it needs one.
Nowadays, there’s lots of very good clamp-on instruments that go around the outside of the pipeline with a strap. [laughs] They work to varying degrees. Some are better than others, and they’re far more suited to certain fluids than other fluids.
Is it possible to attach a new instrument? As you said, you have to have a place to do it. You can’t attach it over a valve, too near a big curve, or over some other piece of equipment. Even if you don’t buy it at the time as you said, if you can build a pipeline for that, just with that space, that will be very helpful.
Russel: I’ve been involved in many measurement projects where there was measurement requirements beyond what the piping easily allowed many, many times.
Adrian: Certainly, we have seen that a lot as well. The second big thing — and this is really causing a lot of problems in the U.S. right now — is the communications. If you put an instrument in a field somewhere, you have to be able to get that signal back to the control room or back to wherever you’re going to use that signal.
With the shale boom, what has happened is there’s now a lot of big shale fields being developed in very remote areas. When you get there, there are no telephone lines existing. There may be no cell phone towers, and you end up not being able to get a lot of data back to the control room.
Russel: That is a very material expense. It’s not uncommon for…Well, understanding how to do communications and do them in a way that will support good leak detection is very much non-trivial, because what I need is a little bit of data very reliably and very frequently.
Adrian: The other thing that happens with the shale plays that we don’t see so much everywhere else is they can grow very quickly. They can have two or three facilities coming on per week for each network. Each of those facilities, they would like to get back maybe as many as 20 signals. You need the signals usually better than every 10 seconds on with quite high resolution.
That builds up very quickly. If you don’t really plan the infrastructure, it can stop your ability to do any type of leak detection, because you’re just not getting enough data to do much with.
Russel: Have you guys started looking at MQTT, or is that outside of what you look at MQTT being a communications protocol?
Adrian: We have quite a few customers that already use MQTT, but that is further upstream than we are. For leak detection, especially in North America, 95 percent of the time, we will be connected to the SCADA system. It’s the SCADA system that’s connected to various devices through MQTT. We do have some systems now that connect directly. For the time being, that’s less common.
Russel: The reason I bring that up is I’ve been looking at MQTT for a while. I’m starting to do a deep dive into that technology, its variants, its application, and then the details of implementing it within a communications network. It uses a lot less bandwidth. It’s a pub/sub, and you can tune things so that I only want to see this number when it changes by more than so much. It can get more data through the same network.
Adrian: It’s very interesting, but it has limitations for leak detection. With leak detection, you generally don’t want the dead bands that you were talking about. We want to see very, very small changes. We do want a very regular scan rate.
One of the ways that we overcame that particular challenge was we would put in our own acquisition units. What they do is they store data. They timestamp it and compress it into a very small file and then send that in a burst.
Russel: Yeah, which allows you to do all the analysis because of the timestamping.
Adrian: Yes, but not just a different way of looking at it compared to MQTT. It depends on what you’re trying to do. Again, it should be part of your philosophy. [laughs] It stems from the risk analysis. How good a leak detection system do you really need? Communication that is able to get enough data back, is a huge part of that.
Russel: This is a great tee up for a question I wanted to ask. In my experience, leak detection needs to be well engineered. Like SCADA, it needs to be well engineered.
It has to be engineered across many disciplines — the instrumentation for pressure and temperature, the primary metering, the communications network, the actual data that you’re moving, how your time sinking all that data, and then all the other stuff that has to happen in the back end, where the data is being crunched. There’s a lot of engineering that has to happen.
Oftentimes, that engineering is glossed over. Is that the right way to say that, at least, in my experience? I’d like to ask you to comment on that, Adrian?
Adrian: I think that’s how we met, Russel. [laughs] It was you and I worked on projects exactly like that, where you were doing one part of it and I was doing another. Yes, it’s absolutely key. If you look at the regulations, they tell you what you have to comply with…
If you have a CPM, computational pipeline monitoring, for leak detection, which mostly detection systems are these days. If you have one of those, you have to comply with API 1130 and API 1175. 1130 touches on the actual (LDS) system, but 1175 is really all about the bigger program.
You can get specific leak detection hardware these days, too. Those things are only a very small part of the entire program. You have the communication systems that we just talked about. You have to have instruments. You have to have the right instruments too. Certain flow meters are much better for certain types of fluids than others.
Russel: You’ve got the same issue with pressure instruments and temperature as you need them to have a certain level of repeatability in a certain level of accuracy.
Adrian: Yes. Then that has to be maintained because that doesn’t stay the same all the time. You need a maintenance program. The absolute key for leak detection is the people. You need the operators, the people that operate the pipeline, the people that own the pipeline, their engineers. They have to be very engaged. They have to be very well trained. They have to have really good procedures.
When you get a leak alarm, what do you do? Do you ignore it? Do you call somebody? Do you do an analysis? Do you shut down the pipeline? If you do shut the pipeline down, are you allowed to restart it? Who do you have to call? Do you have to wake the CEO?
Russel: We could do multiple podcasts about several of the things you just said in the last 30 seconds because that is a very, very deep subject matter area.
Adrian: One of the challenges with leak detection is that most of the vendors provide only a part of the complete program. You need a very good working relationship with the people that use it. That’s one of the cases. If we loop back to where we started, that’s one of the places where it’s quite a lot better here in North America than it is in other parts of the world.
Generally, when we’re building projects in other countries, we get involved five years before the pipeline runs. We’re usually working for a big contractor. They hand everything over at once to the end user, and they start operating the pipeline and using all the software and all the other systems.
The problem is those people weren’t even hired when we started the project, or even they weren’t hired until very recently. They’ve had no training on all the systems that they’re provided both by us and by SCADA companies and everybody that was providing equipment.
They have a huge learning curve because they’re learning 10 or 15 systems, a dozen types of instruments, communication, how they’re operating a pipeline.
Russel: I’m sure you can relate to this, Adrian. I have customers that I’ve been working with since 2000 when facilities were originally being built. I haven’t been on-site with that customer now in three years, I think. I haven’t had a need to be on-site with a customer, but I know more about their system than the people that work there.
Adrian: That’s very funny, Russel. I’ll not give any details about it, but I went to see this company. I quoted them a leak detection system for a very big network. I prepared a quote. I had a lot of details, but I gathered the details myself by going there. That company was bought by a much bigger company. That bigger company already used Atmos International to do their leak detection.
They reached out and said, “We have this asset. We want leak detection, and we want a quote. Can you give it to us?” I said, “Sure, can you give me the details?” They’re like, “Well, we don’t have any. We’re still gathering details, and it’s going to take some time.” I knew from the geographical area that it might be the company I’d already quoted.
I asked the question. They’re like, “Yes, it’s that,” and I just sent them the quote straight away.
Russel: That’s the other thing about our business, Adrian. The people change. The owners change. The assets are the same. [laughs]
Adrian: We’re in a very difficult time at the minute with low oil prices and the pandemic. A lot of our younger engineers are very frightened. The industry is going to die, and they’re going to lose their job and everything like that. They have some customers that they worked with, that the companies went bankrupt, and things like that.
What I always say to them is, “Don’t worry. The assets are still there, whether it was bought by somebody else, including the leak detection system…”
Russel: As long as the assets are running, they’re going to need people to operate and maintain them.
Adrian: That’s what we’ve seen a lot in the last three months, is a lot of assets have transferred hands. They’re still operating maybe at lower flow rates, but they are still operating a lot of them, which is good for the industry.
Russel: I want to ask another question. This is also because it’s been on my mind recently, and you’ve brought up the pandemic. Of course, I’m going to tee this up a little bit. One of the things that’s going on with a pandemic is, all of a sudden, everybody’s getting used to and exposed to the idea of remote work.
I’m working from my house, and I’m in meetings all day long just like I was in the office. It also is pointing out the need to be able to sustain remote work. What I’m wondering is, historically leak detection and SCADA, which are the critical portions of the control systems for pipeline operators, have been all internal to the company.
I’m wondering if that’s going to start moving to the cloud to support remote work. I wonder if you have an opinion about that.
Adrian: Yeah. We’ve been fortunate. We’ve been doing remote work for really quite a long time, and it has certainly helped us in the transition. We’ve had our own internal system set up so that they could go remote. We were able to leave [laughs] the offices very quickly without having any real bump at all in service.
In terms of things moving to the cloud, there’s a lot of resistance here in North America, particularly with larger companies. What we’ve seen is outside of North America, it’s really embraced in certain places. There’s pockets of it.
One of the primary places we’ve seen is for theft detection. We don’t do a lot of theft detection in the U.S. The companies don’t think there is a lot of theft from pipelines. That’s a whole other subject about why there’s no…
Russel: Yeah, I could share some stories about that. I don’t know if they’re appropriate for the podcast, but they’re certainly appropriate over a cocktail.
Adrian: [laughs] In other countries it’s very, very prevalent, and even in countries you wouldn’t think, like the U.K. has had almost an epidemic of pipeline thefts as well. Those are very dangerous for the environment too, because often they’re connecting to high-pressure pipelines with the hose pipe that you buy in Home Depot and fittings that you buy in Home Depot.
You got people doing hot taps in high-pressure pipelines. There’s been cases where there’s a very high-pressure gas line running next to a products pipeline. Of course, the person doing the tap goes, ” Eeny, meeny, miney, moe,” and if he picks the high-pressure gas line, it’s the last thing [laughs] he’ll ever do.
Russel: It’s in certain parts of America it’s a big problem as well.
Adrian: [laughs] We’ll have to look into that a little bit differently.
Russel: I don’t know that I want to attack that [laughs] any more on this podcast, but maybe we’ll have that conversation in another time.
Adrian: To come back to the cloud system. For theft detection, we’re using some of the same systems we’re using for leak detection, but they’re set up and tuned very differently. The thefts tend to be very, very small volumes that are right down in the repeatability of the instrumentation.
The thieves are really quite smart these days. They’ve studied how leak detection systems work, or they’ve been told how they work. They know to open valves very slowly, so you don’t get a huge pressure drop whenever they do it.
Thieves are quite hard to catch, but they have a characteristic that’s very different from leak detection. That is, first of all, the theft stops by itself, whereas a leak will not stop until you intervene, and then they reoccur in the same place. What we do with that is we put a system in the cloud. It’s not connected to the SCADA system or the control system. The service is a report.
We send a report saying, “You’re having a theft at this location, and it occurs, you know, two or three times a week, usually at three o’clock in the morning. You should go and investigate.” Almost always those systems are in the cloud, because we’re moving vast amounts of data.
Russel: That makes a huge amount of sense. I would assume that what you’re doing is you’re doing very large amounts of data. It’s not really critical from a real-time perspective, but you need to do more advanced number-crunching to find these small imbalances that aren’t really leaks, per se.
Adrian: The other thing about that, too, is these instruments are not connected to a control roomr, so you’re not bringing any extra risk into the control room, and that’s one of the keys. Obviously, the SCADA system needs to be connected to the control room because the control comes through there.
We could look at networks in the future where leak detection systems, which don’t really control anything, – they’re information systems – they could be completely separate, which would lower the risk. Then, you can take them into the cloud.
The biggest vendor for cloud services is Amazon, which is also one of the biggest retailers in the world. I’m pretty sure their security is good given [laughs] the vast volumes of money they transfer. Certainly, the cloud can be used, but it requires a change in thinking.
Russel: I have a theory about this. You talk about SCADA — SCADA, supervisory control and data acquisition. It’s SCA and DA, and you’re going to see those things diverge. Data acquisition makes sense to do in the cloud, but the SCA part is not.
If you think about communications, communications are already in the cloud anyway. It’s already being moved through the telco, and they just do the data processing the same way.
Adrian: I’ve had that conversation really a lot. Then, you also see the consequences of hacking are very serious. I can see it on both sides, for sure.
Russel: I can, too. I just wanted to get your take on it. To me, this is a very interesting subject. It goes to my chosen flavor of nerdiness.
Adrian: [laughs] The next big movement that’s coming in the industry is the application of AI. Everybody I speak to who’s a vendor is looking at AI for something, and what’s even funnier about that is they don’t know what they want to use it for. They just want to use it for something. Once you start using AI, you are going to…
Russel: AI right now is a hammer in search of a nail.
Adrian: Yeah. Once you start using that, then you’re going to need so much computing power that really the cloud is going to be the most optimal way to do it.
Russel: No doubt. No doubt.
Listen. We’re coming to the end of our conversation at least for this segment. What would you like to leave with people as we’ve been talking about leak detection from a programmatic and a system standpoint? What would you encourage people to say, “Here’s what you ought to take away from this conversation?”
Adrian: The main thing I would say is that the regulator’s getting tougher and tougher with leak detection, so companies are going to need leak detection from that standpoint.
The bigger point I would put out there is a bad leak can cost over a billion dollars. There are companies that have spent that, and it’s in the press. This is not private information. There are many companies that have had half-a-billion dollar leaks.
Leak detection is a very important insurance policy to have, because if you can minimize that leak through a leak detection system, you go from a billion-dollar leak to a hundred thousand dollar leak, which is obviously a huge saving for the company.
Just bear in mind it’s very easy to have a leak detection program that ticks the leak detection box, but it’s not a very effective leak detection system. I would advise everybody out there, whatever is right for you, find an effective leak detection system that will protect you.
Russel: That’s exceedingly well said, Adrian. As an operator, you need to find something that’s effective and appropriate for your situation. Very well said.
Listen. Thanks for coming on. It’s been great to have you. I think we need to bring you back, and we’ll talk more about the cloud and other things.
Adrian: Sounds great, Russel. Always a pleasure to talk to you, and I would love to come back on again sometime.
Russel: Great. Thanks again.
Adrian: Thanks, Russel. Have a good one.
Russel: I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of the Pipeliners Podcast and our conversation with Adrian. Just a reminder, before you go, you should register to win our customized Pipeliners Podcast YETI tumbler. Simply visit pipelinepodcastnetwork.com/win to enter yourself in the drawing.
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Transcription by CastingWords