On average, oil and gas pipelines are inspected every five years, which, given that pipelines in the United States are over 60 years old, is not enough. Operators face costly and damaging leaks over cracks and incidents that are completely preventable with more regular inspection. The problem is that inspection is not an easy process — unless INGU Solutions is involved.

The Alberta, Canada-based company has created a hardware component – called Piper – that’s roughly the size of a baseball. The device can be run through pipes of any size to inspect and detect internal problems. INGU has an inspection-as-a-service model so that all data collected by Pipers is analyzed and provided to customers without any further steps on their part.

The idea for the device came from founder and CEO John van Pol, who has a background in nuclear physics and founded the company in 2015. Now he runs the company with his daughter, Anouk van Pol, who started as an analyst and works in the field for INGU and now serves the company as co-founder and COO.

The Piper is smaller than a baseball and can run through any size pipe used in the oil and gas industry. Photo via ingu.com

In 2017, INGU was selected to be part of the inaugural cohort of Chevron’s Catalyst Program and Chevron Technology Ventures – along with two other U.S. investors – contributed to the company’s Series A in 2019. This led to INGU establishing its operations Americans in Houston to develop their American team and get closer to customers. Then the pandemic hit.

“The idea was to be closer to our customers,” Anouk explains to InnovationMap. “Houston is the hub of oil and gas, and just being able to be in [our clients’] offices and being there in person just helps. Hopefully at some point the COVID will pass and we can enjoy it a bit more.

“The other thing is you’re opening up your market on the hiring side,” she says, adding that the company now has two American employees.

INGU initially had an office at The Cannon, but now operates locally at The Ion in the Common Desk coworking space with an office suite to support its local team. In 2019, the company was named to the inaugural cohort of Plug and Play in Houston and as Most Promising Company by Rice Alliance at OTC.

Anouk, who was shortlisted for Forbes 30 Under 30 in Energy in 2020, and her father both split their time between Houston and Alberta, usually alternating so that the van Pols are present in each office at all times, but the two are currently in town for the 34th annual Pipeline Pigging and Integrity Management, or PPIM, conference. It’s the OTC for the pipeline industry, says Anouk.

Ahead of the conference and despite the challenges the pandemic has posed to INGU, Anouk says the company has seen significant growth over the past two years.

“We grew by 60% last year,” she says. “which is pretty good for what’s happened in the last two years.”

From a hardware perspective, the impact of the pandemic has been relatively small. The Pipers are designed with off-the-shelf materials that INGU has sourced, thus avoiding any shortages in the supply chain. Additionally, INGU may send the devices to pipeline operators, who may deploy them while the devices send collected data directly to INGU.

Anouk van Pol is the COO of the company. Photo via LinkedIn

The company, which anticipates a Series A high school this year in addition to tripling its annual revenue, has an environmental, social and governance, or ESG, component to its business. While half of INGU’s customers are in the energy sector and Pipers helps reduce waste in oil operations, the other half of customers are in the water sector. The water infrastructure is 100 years old and Anouk says around 6 billion gallons of water are wasted every day.

“It’s 40% of all the water, and because so much water is lost, you need more power and energy,” says Anouk. “Where we see that oil and gas is doing prevention in good condition, etc., the water market is doing a lot of leakage protection.”

In both sectors, Pipers avoids waste and enables companies to take positive action in their ESG plans.

INGU has customers all over the world and servicing these different types of pipes and companies increases INGU’s database which better benefits their inspection as a service capabilities.

“The more we grow, the more we can and will learn and then enter this self-fulfilling cycle,” says Anouk.


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