Electronic Device Monitors Gas Leaks

September 26, 1997

Rensselaer researcher Michael Savic has developed an electronic device that acts as an early warning system for leaks and explosions in pipelines and storage tanks. Savic's patented system extends his earlier work to detect problems in underground pipelines. In addition, the device detects if the pipeline is struck by a hard object.

The latest device, which monitors pipelines and tanks carrying either liquids or gases, has been successfully tested on both high-pressure underground lines as well as low-pressure above ground Texaco pipelines in Texas. Texaco financed much of the development work.

Reliable detection of leaks is vital if the materials they contain are explosive. Even small holes in high-pressure gas pipelines can quickly create dangerous, large gas clouds. If a pipeline or tank is struck by a hard object, system operators need to know immediately so a crew can be sent to inspect for possible damage.

Conventional detection systems rely on methods such as volume balance comparison or detection of the leaking fluid. They can only detect relatively large leaks and may allow a potentially dangerous situation to develop without detection, says Savic, professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering.

In his system, listening devices placed along a pipeline or tank can hear a change in features of the signal coming from within the vessel if there is a leak. This information is analyzed by a central processor. The system ignores irrelevant sounds such as passing planes, but issues an immediate warning in case of a leak or collision. The warning includes the location, so crews can be sent to the site.

Contact: Michael Savic (518) 276-6388, savic@ecse.rpi.edu

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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