Lightning in a Bottle

• Oil & Gas,Pipeline

Lightning in a Bottle

In 2017, something very special materialized — a program called iPIPE. Satelytics was proud to be a pacesetter in this unlikely program.

  • Problem: ND challenge to decrease leaks.
  • Solution: Satelytics and iPIPE partnership.
  • Benefit: Shared costs and benefits.

In May 2017, after six months in office, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum had seen enough. North Dakota was being labeled, perhaps unfairly, as “the spills state.” A few large pipeline leaks had garnered unwanted national attention. His background as a Microsoft executive had taught him that technology can solve problems, but it sometimes requires out-of-the-box thinking. Governor Burgum called a meeting with every pipeline operator in the state of North Dakota. During this meeting, he challenged them to do better by applying technology in new ways to defeat this problem.

Industry quickly responded when six visionary pipeline operators came together to define a program with an unusual mission — to fill the empty slots in their tool belt with new tools for pipeline leak detection and leak prevention.

The intelligent Pipeline Integrity Program, or iPIPE, sought to work hand-in-hand with technology providers to tune their products specifically to the needs of pipeline operators. This would be a program to develop new technology, not merely demonstrate existing technology.

This was a novel approach. Few thought it possible for these intense competitors to work together, combining their financial and intellectual assets to accomplish something that would provide benefit to the entire industry. Far beyond that, after less than a year of working together, iPIPE members realized they had something special. The members realized that they were quietly using this forum to share ideas, success stories, and unvarnished failure stories, thus elevating the performance of all program members. “A high tide floats all boats” became a mantra of the program.

One year later, iPIPE held its first technology selection event, which some compared to ABC-TV’s popular “Shark Tank” program (though the two are not affiliated). Satelytics was proud to be the first technology selected by iPIPE for development. In two subsequent phases, iPIPE asked Satelytics to advance other aspects of its software that had shown such promise during the first phase of work in 2018. During this time, iPIPE membership also swelled to 11 members, including national pipeline companies.

iPIPE Program Members

iPIPE Program Members

Everybody stumbles across a golden opportunity at least once in a lifetime. Unfortunately, most people just pick themselves up, dust themselves down, and walk away from it.

Winston Churchill

Today, because of the success of iPIPE and Satelytics — as perhaps its proudest success story — another first is being considered, again in North Dakota. In February 2020, iPIPE members proposed a first-in-the-world statewide monitoring program that would have Satelytics monitoring all oil & gas and pipeline assets in the state. iPIPE members and the state’s Industrial Commission, chaired by Governor Burgum, had caught lightning in a bottle once and hoped to do so again. The state is now considering how this approach might benefit other interests outside of oil & gas. Satelytics’ proven algorithms could assist the state’s water management efforts, its transportation department, and other industries vital to the state. Why not have everyone share the cost and benefits?

Satelytics has received numerous calls in the past few months, asking, “How was this done in North Dakota?” and “How can it be done elsewhere?” We hope others follow the lead of this visionary governor, these visionary pipeline operators, and this state willing to work together to achieve big things.

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