Conversations across Western Canada — in coffee shops, in the legislative assembly and in boardrooms — are focused on the issue of pipelines and the environment. INGU Solutions, one of the companies in the first cohort of the Creative Destruction Lab Rockies, is making an impact on this top-of-mind issue with their technology that improves pipeline safety by extending detection capabilities to small diameter pipelines.
Making pipelines safer with technology that is cheaper and easier to use
Pipeline inspection is a big business, and an important one. Companies have aging infrastructure to maintain to ensure the environment is protected, with little downtime to business. Current solutions range from pipeline inspection gauges (known in the industry as PIGs) that can weigh up to two tonnes and travel through the pipeline gathering data, to external techniques such as X-rays or gamma rays to analyze the exterior of a pipeline for cracks, corrosion or other deficiencies.
INGU’s technology — Pipers — can gather over 24 hours’ worth of pipeline data, all with a device slightly bigger than a golf ball. Pipers are mobile sensors that literally go with the flow through a pipeline detecting deposits, leaks and other pipeline features as they go. Perhaps most important to industry — because of their ease of use — inspection can be a self-serve process with an operator being able to test multiple times a year and receive the outcome back from INGU.
“What makes our technology truly unique,” says John van Pol, co-founder and CEO, INGU Solutions, “is that it disrupts the technology as well as the business model, by making it possible to inspect the 300,000 miles of unpiggable pipelines solely paying for the data on an annual recurring basis.”
CDL fast-tracked INGU from a pre-commercial to a commercial stage company
Each of CDL’s six locations has a network of CDL fellows and associates, accomplished entrepreneurs who have deeply connected business networks. CDL fellows and associates mentor, connect and often invest in ventures in the program. “CDL brings leading industry experts in one room, creating the opportunity to talk to them in one afternoon instead of many separate meetings,” says van Pol.
While INGU had done many paid pilot projects in controlled environments, one of the CDL-Rockies fellows, Scott Saxberg, gave them the opportunity to run an operational 10 kilometre sour gas line.
“For a company to get a live test like this can often take years and it was facilitated by CDL in a matter of hours,” says Jana Hanova, venture leader, energy/clean tech, CDL-Rockies. “In Calgary we deeply understand oil and gas and clean tech — so INGU Solutions was able to gain immediate traction here.”
“CDL-Rockies has been major for us,” says van Pol. With a PhD in nuclear physics, van Pol has over 20 years of experience in introducing new technologies to the market before he moved to Canada and launched INGU Solutions in Kitchener-Waterloo. Early in 2017, the company moved to Calgary — becoming a part of the energy and clean tech industry and the innovation ecosystem here.
INGU Solutions and CDL-Rockies continue to grow
While participating in the San Francisco-based accelerator 500 Startups, INGU already learned that investors need a forcing function to bring them all together at the same time. “CDL was this forcing function for us. The momentum from the CDL program and fellows allowed us to raise $1 million in equity within six weeks,” says van Pol.
INGU has also grown. “We came to Calgary as a team of four, now we are a team of eight,” says van Pol, and all of these new employees are UCalgary data scientists and engineers. “Investors want to know, ‘Do you have the team? Are the people in place?’ We need the people who can work the magic of growing our company.”