This LSU professor’s invention could save energy companies millions

    Jyotsna Sharma, an LSU petroleum engineering professor, has invented a “breakthrough” technology that could be able to quickly and accurately identify pipeline leaks.

    Sharma’s invention combines advanced signal processing algorithms with Fiber Bragg grating, a type of distributed Bragg reflector constructed in a segment of optical fiber. Fiber optic sensors measure pressure, stress, temperature and vibration to detect and localize small leaks that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

    Currently, pipeline leaks are detected with pressure gauges that are commonly spaced far apart—sometimes miles apart—from each other. Those gauges reliably detect large leaks, but the precise locations of the leaks are difficult to discern and small leaks often remain invisible.

    Fiber Bragg grating has been used to detect pipeline leaks before, but the fiber optic sensors are so sensitive that wind or a person walking near the pipeline could trigger a vibration signal that could be misinterpreted as a leak. The software Sharma developed eliminates the “noise” that results in such false alarms and can accurately determine the location and size of a leak.

    The oil and gas industry spends more than $3 billion each year to detect pipeline leaks. Sharma’s invention has the potential to significantly reduce leak detection and repair costs for pipeline operators, according to a statement from LSU.