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Research Group Develops Fiber Optic Technology to Monitor Gas Pipelines

The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA), an energy and environmental research facility owned and operated by the U.S. Department of Energy, is developing fiber optic sensor systems that internally monitor natural gas pipelines. 

The data gathered by these sensor systems will be able to detect potential corrosion risks to pipeline infrastructure, thereby avoiding expensive repairs that affect pipeline operators and consumers alike.

This new pipeline sensor technology builds on prior work by NETL researchers to develop fiber-optic sensors that prevent leaks and ruptures before they occur. The same research team has now created devices called interrogators that analyze miles of fiber-optic data within pipelines.

According to Paul Ohodnicki of NETL’s Functional Materials Team, NETL researchers are currently exploring two cost-effective interrogator options: Brillouin optical time domain analysis (BOTDA) and optical frequency-domain reflectometry (OFDR). Even when accounting for their individual limitations, both technologies have the potential to provide long-distance and low-cost monitoring solutions.

“BOTDA and OFDR interrogators with enhanced performance, reduced cost and additional functionality will represent significant steps forward for this kind of technology,” says Ohodnicki. “We are targeting large dynamic range and optimized resolution with high signal-to-noise ratios, which will provide an enhanced monitoring capability at lower effective costs.”

Source: National Energy Technology Laboratory, www.netl.doe.gov.