The only time most people may have seen a Pipeline Inspection Gauge (PIG), is when James Bond villain General Georgi Koskov used one to escape from the Soviet bloc through a pipeline in the spy flick “The Living Daylights.” When not serving as a plot prop in the adventures of the dashing British secret agent, the torpedo-shaped robots are critical devices used to routinely monitor and inspect the condition of oil and natural gas pipelines to ensure their safe and reliable operation.
Originally designed to clean the inside of pipelines, PIGs have since become “smart,” equipped with hundreds of electronic sensors that inspect the quality of the pipeline inside and out to identify even the tiniest crack, flaw or sign of corrosion. Smart PIGs, which engineers say make pig-like squeals when zipping through pipes, are routinely launched through our pipelines as part of our ongoing maintenance programs.
The smart PIG is propelled by flowing oil or gas along the length of the pipe. While travelling, sensors detect changes in the pipeline steel caused by dents, cracks or metal loss. This is how the PIG identifies and measures, on a millimeter-by millimeter basis, any defect type, size and location, and relays data to pipeline integrity experts.
The data is then analyzed, and if any defects are found, our teams conduct investigative digs, excavating sections of the pipeline to check their condition and do any necessary repairs. Some repairs may be as simple as recoating the pipeline for further protection but in some cases it may involve replacing a joint of pipe if needed.
Over the past three years, TransCanada invested an annual average of $900 million in pipeline integrity and proactive inspection and maintenance programs to protect its pipelines and energy facilities. High-resolution in-line inspection tools such as PIGs are a key part of our integrity programs, allowing us to continuously inspect, measure and monitor our assets’ condition and performance.
Our integrity and maintenance programs are designed to ensure that every controllable aspect of our operations meets our safety priority. We make safety – for our employees and members of the communities we operate in – an integral part of the way we work.
Pipelines provide the safest, most efficient and economical means to transport crude oil over long distances, and TransCanada spearheads the industry when it comes to its record for the safety and reliability of its pipeline network. While we are proud of our track record, we are relentless in ensuring we continue to improve. We believe that every incident, however minor, can be prevented. This is why our goal is zero incidents.
Preventing incidents is our paramount priority. It has been so for more than 60 years, and it will be the case with our Energy East project. Energy East will use high-quality materials and best practice techniques to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of crude oil to Eastern Canadian refineries and port terminals.
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