For Professor Adrian Gerlich, examining the joining of metals is pretty exciting stuff.
“One of the main reasons welding really excites me is there are so many physical processes going on. The electrical arc generates temperatures that are hotter than the surface of the sun. There’s melting, re-solidification and the transformations of all the grains and phases within the steels,” says Gerlich, who was recently named the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) TransCanada Industrial Research Chair in Welding for Energy Infrastructure at the University of Waterloo. “It’s an immensely complicated process that we mostly take for granted.”
Finding thought leaders such as Gerlich to head up research projects — like the one he’s undertaking with NSERC and TransCanada in his new role — is critical to achieving state-of-the-art innovation. His enthusiasm for studying the microstructural behaviour of weld material has the potential to help shape the future for the pipeline industry in terms of safety, integrity and ability.
“The two aspects we’re going to focus on involve reliability and productivity. The goal is to be able to make these joints faster and more efficiently, while reducing the costs, and also improving their integrity.”
Partnering for welding excellence
Through decades of partnership with post-secondary institutions, such as the University of Waterloo, TransCanada’s pipeline, oil-and-gas storage facilities and power plants are considered to be among the most technologically advanced in the industry. The company’s track record of implementing innovative solutions to meet customer needs spans more than 60 years, and TransCanada continues to conduct significant research and development (R&D) in support of its responsibility to safety, community and the environment.
Today, the TransCanada leads the industry in R&D research, with $22 million spent on innovative projects across North America in 2013.
Selecting ideal partnership teams led by innovative post-secondary researchers is critical to achieving the greatest heights in innovation.
“I think it’s a good fit with TransCanada and the University of Waterloo. The University of Waterloo has always been very innovative and responsive to industry in general, so we’re excited to partner in the area of welding,” says Kyle Keith, TransCanada Director of Materials Engineering.
“I have no doubt that there’ll be a lot of innovation and it will have a positive impact on the industry.”
— Kyle Keith, TransCanada Director of Materials Engineering
And the research currently being conducted at the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Advanced Materials Joining is groundbreaking.
“Something the public might not be aware of is that this is the most focused research effort on pipeline welding nearly anywhere in the world,” Gerlich adds. “I’m familiar with almost all the other major welding institutes around the world and virtually none of the other universities can claim to have even more than a couple students dedicated to welding of pipeline materials. But we’re going to have five or six at one time, which is a significantly bigger effort than most other places.”
The partnership at the University of Waterloo exemplifies one sample of TransCanada’s extensive R&D program that supports research taking place across North America at major post-secondary institutions in Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, London, Ohio, Windsor, Vancouver and Kansas, with more studies and partnerships being added each year.
Industry testing for turbochargers
At Kansas State University (KSU), TransCanada has a partnership that dates back 20 years. Since 1994, KSU’s lab has supported the natural gas transmission industry through its testing and research of turbochargers, which are critical to reducing pollution and meeting tight EPA environmental regulations for large engines used to transport natural gas throughout the United States, run nuclear power plant backup generators and power large marine vehicles.
One small change in turbocharger performance can lead to a huge change in pollutant emissions. At a ceremony held in July of this year, KSU named their testing apparatus after TransCanada at a dedication for the TransCanada Turbocharger High Flow Test Cell, which is open for use across the natural gas transmission industry in the United States.
“We cannot thank TransCanada enough for their generous support and all partners involved in the process,” says Byron Jones, director at the KSU Lab for the College of Engineering. “We are now the only testing facility in the United States capable of performance testing every turbocharger used in the natural gas transmission industry.”
Through KSU’s leadership, and partnerships with companies such as TransCanada, the Lab for the College of Engineering offers students a real-world classroom supporting the growth of practical skills, work ethic and true experience in an industry safety culture.
New technology improves PCB cleanup
In a post-secondary partnership with the Unversity of Calgary and SAIT Polytechnic, TransCanada invested close to $500,000 in a 13-year research and development project that may provide industry with a safer, more convenient and much less costly way of remediating PCBs in the environment.
“It’s through these partnerships that ground-breaking discoveries are made, and that moves the needle for our company and for our industry.”
— Vern Meier, TransCanada Vice-President of Pipeline Safety and Compliance
University of Calgary scientists have developed new technology that promises a safer, more efficient way to clean up hazardous polychlorinaed biphenyls (PCBs) in soil using ultraviolet light – the first technology of its kind in the world.
The university research team, in collaboration with TransCanada, Innovate Calgary, SAIT Polytechnic and IPAC Services Corp., created a 15-metre-long, mobile cleanup unit that is ready for field-testing on PCB-contaminated soil.
“Partnering with leaders in the academic world has been critically important to TransCanada for decades. We work together to achieve scientific breakthroughs that can help improve safety, reliability and environmental efficiencies,” says Vern Meier, TransCanada Vice-President of Pipeline Safety and Compliance.
Professor Gerlich agrees, “The great thing about a partnership like this is that working with a company focuses your efforts into something that’s going to be the most beneficial to society. It also provides inside knowledge into that industry and into the technology the company is working on. When these partnerships work, the knowledge always goes both ways.”