Industry responds to governor’s initiative to improve pipeline technology; Program funding approved by North Dakota Industrial Commission

A research and development project focused on advancing new technologies to prevent and detect pipeline leaks is moving ahead after receiving approval and a $1.6 million grant from the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) this week. Leaders within the oil and gas industry in the state proposed the Intelligent Pipeline Integrity Program (iPIPE) in direct response to a challenge made by Governor Doug Burgum last year to eliminate pipeline leaks through innovation. The grant will be matched by private contributions made by industry partners in the program, for an overall cost of $3.7 million.

“We’re excited to see the private sector step up and embrace the challenge to do more with emerging technologies to solve the problem of pipeline leaks or spills within the gathering system in our state,” said Governor Burgum, who chairs the NDIC. “The Intelligent Pipeline Integrity Program is a novel approach worthy of support from the Industrial Commission and our state leadership, and I eagerly anticipate the results of their research.”

“As industry leaders we feel that the iPIPE consortium can truly achieve our goal – to improve integrity and performance of our gathering system in the state,” said Brent Lohnes, general manager in North Dakota for Hess Corporation and iPIPE consortium partner. “With our core partners, this effort will be done in a way that embraces the best of new technologies, to both better detect releases and to prevent them from happening.”

The iPIPE consortium partners include Hess Corporation, Equinor (formerly Statoil), Goodnight Midstream, Oasis Midstream Partners, ONEOK, the Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC) in Grand Forks, N.D. and several technology providers.

The goal of iPIPE is to develop and demonstrate cutting-edge technology that can prevent and/or detect gathering pipeline leaks in the state. iPIPE partners will do this through a process of testing and selecting emerging technologies, documenting demonstrations and results, and ultimately facilitating the adoption of the best, new technologies into North Dakota pipeline operations.

The $1.6 million from NDIC’s Oil and Gas Research Program, together with industry support of the project, will fund the planned three-and-a-half year program. The iPIPE consortium has proposed incremental funding of the project to allow for additional program partners and research as consortium membership and investment from oil and gas companies grows. Lohnes and other industry leaders say they hope iPIPE will serve as a nationwide model for responsible state involvement in infrastructure integrity research and development.

The NDIC consists of Burgum as chairman, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.