As he soars in Basin Electric’s airplanes over the hills and valleys of western North Dakota and southern Saskatchewan, Canada, Claude O’Berry, Dakota Gasification Company pipeline superintendent, has one thing on his mind: the integrity of the carbon dioxide (CO2) pipeline.
Basin Electric’s pilots fly low enough so that O’Berry can carefully view the 205-mile stretch of 12- and 14-inch-diameter pipeline that carries CO2 from Dakota Gas’ Great Plains Synfuels Plant near Beulah, ND, to the oil fields of southern Saskatchewan. The CO2 is used for enhanced oil production in Canada, where the older oil fields can pump out up to three times as much oil by injecting CO2 into the deep crevices of the oil wells.
Dakota Gas owns and operates four sections of pipelines, and federal regulations require Dakota Gas to inspect the CO2 line 26 times per year, in two-week intervals. “It is very important to carefully inspect the pipeline route as early detection of an issue can save us from a major problem,” O’Berry says.
O’Berry and the rest of the pipeline team diligently work to keep the pipelines running smoothly and safely. During the biweekly flight of the CO2 pipeline’s right of way, O’Berry looks for dead vegetation or frost on the ground, indicating the pipeline is leaking CO2. He also looks for downed fence lines or signs, washed-out areas or third-party contractors doing unauthorized work within the pipeline right-of-way. Flying the pipeline to Canada and back takes about three hours.
“In 2011, we were conducting our biweekly flyover of the CO2 pipeline when we noticed a landslide that resulted in a large portion of our pipeline being exposed and sagging, causing undo stress and jeopardizing the pipe integrity,” O’Berry says. “Had we not been out there flying the route, months could have went by before we detected the exposure.”
Read the rest of the story in the September/October issue of Basin Today: A day in the life of Pipeline Superintendent Claude O’Berry.