Brazilian Pipeline Leak Detection Technology Primed to Go Global

Based on acoustics and neural network computing, Asel-Tech’s Sonic Leak Detection System can quickly detect leaks in pipelines carrying many kinds of fluids.

A technology developed to detect pipeline leaks in Brazil is being prepared for export to other countries, including the United States. The Brazilian company Asel-Tech was created in 2007 and manufactures products that demand technological development and innovation, such as leak detection systems, locators for PIGs, or Pipelne Inspection Gadgets, and other equipment for pipelines. The company has built a technology for leak detection based on acoustics incorporating neural network computing. The system was recently installed in a 1,400-meter-long pipeline.

“Sonic technology can be efficiently used to detect leaks in pipelines that transport many kinds of fluids—liquids, gases or multiphase—and it can be applied to aerial, underground or underwater pipelines,” says Julio Alonso, Asel-Tech director.

How it works

The company’s Sonic Leak Detection System (SLDS) operating principle is based on the detection of the dynamic hydraulic transient created by the leakage, says Alonso. At the moment that the pipe wall breaks open or collapses, the sudden local rarefaction creates a pressure transient, which propagates upstream and downstream. The pressure waveform, followed by a damped oscillation, travels through the fluid and, guided by the pipe wall, can travel for quite long distances. In the Asel-Tech system, acoustic sensors are installed at strategic points along the pipeline to read these signals, so they sense the occurrence of the leak, Alonso explains. The journey time of the transient from the leakage point to the adjacent acoustic sensors is measured, permitting the leak to be located rapidly and very accurately.

“When a leak occurs, detection time is a fundamental parameter in minimizing product losses, avoiding safety risks, and preventing environmental damage. This is the greatest advantage of this technology,” Alonso observes.

Export plans

In Brazil, Asel-Tech already has many Sonic Leak Detection Systems installed in crude oil, natural gas, multi-phase fluids and naphtha pipelines. Now, the company is planning to export the technology and is participating in competitions in Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela and Argentina.

Asel-Tech is also negotiating the installation of an SLDS demonstration in the United States. “We contracted lawyers in Houston, and we will establish USA Asel-Tech to be close to our future customers, and to offer local support”, says Alonso. “Maybe we will manufacture part of the system there in order to reduce the cost.”

About the author

Sílvia Pereira, silviapereira@uol.com.br, is a freelance journalist based in Brazil.

More in Control