Mahanagar Gas Limited (MGL), a leading natural gas distribution company in India, was established in 1995 as a joint venture between GAIL Limited, the BG Group and the Government of Maharashtra.
The firm’s distribution network consists of 390 km of steel and over 3,850 km of polyethylene pipelines, catering to more than 700,000 households and over 2,300 small commercial and industrial establishments. MGL also has 175 compressed natural gas (CNG) stations catering to 370,000 vehicles.
Ensuring safe and uninterrupted gas supplies to customers has become a priority area for the organisation. For this purpose, it has put in place robust systems and processes that match international benchmarks. The firm is also increasing its use of IT as it believes this will help reduce overall costs and enhance efficiency and customer satisfaction. MGL has incorporated the following IT applications in its practices:
Geographic information systems
MGL began using geographic information system (GIS) technology in 2002 with the GE Smallworld 3.2.1 system, aiming to develop a more robust pipeline network. The firm also wanted to use GIS technology on a daily basis to offer functionalities like identifying different assets, tracing the pipeline network, detecting the shortest path, conducting valve closure analyses, determining the nearest locators and collecting gas leak data.
Since its initial infusion, MGL’s entire pipeline network and all its critical equipment installations have been mapped via GIS software. As of June 2014, the number of its GIS users was close to 200. The company also has maintenance and support contracts in place and updates Landbase (the base map) on a quarterly basis.
In order to maintain the software’s utility, MGL consistently conducts user satisfaction surveys and knowledge quizzes. It has also introduced mobile solutions with the aim of providing GIS technology even outside the office. The com-pany worked with a few local vendors to develop an Android-based mobile application that is available to all users in the company. At present, it is implementing an upgraded version of mobile GIS called “My World”.
As part of its GIS solutions, MGL provides facilities like gas outage analyses, generic raster imports, customer import modules, and AutoCAD imports. It also maintains hyperlinking records that provide users with documents like test certificates and commissioning reports with regard to the laying of a pipeline. In order to make the GIS application more user friendly, MGL has enhanced the look of the software.
Global positioning systems
The firm is using differential global positioning systems to capture data during the process of laying a pipeline. By capturing this data in a geo-reference environment using a hand-held device and porting it directly into the GIS, it avoids the use of hard copy maps. As part of its disaster management efforts, MGL is in the process of providing GIS technology to its emergency vans through mobile tabs. The company is also promoting the use of gadgets for patrolmen, which can be attached to bike handlebars, so that they can reach locations on the pipeline network that require immediate attention.
MGL also utilises ultrasonic flow meters, mass flow meters, turbine meters, rotary positive displacement (RPD) meters, diaphragm meters, etc. The company receives gas from GAIL (India) at its gas receiving stations, which are equipped with ultrasonic flow meters.
While GAIL (India) Limited has installed ultrasonic flow meters for custody transfer applications, MGL has installed them to serve as check meters. Its metering skid constitutes ultrasonic meters, gas chromatographs and flow computers. According to the company, ultrasonic flow meters involve lower maintenance costs as there are no moving parts.
MGL uses mass flow meters to measure the mass of gas at CNG stations, which account for more than half the gas supplied by the company. These meters have a flow range of 1 kg to 100 kg per minute and an operating pressure of 250 bar. To measure gas flow and mixtures, the company has installed turbine meters and RPD meters respectively, which are utilised depending on their applications in the industrial and commercial sectors. The flow of these meters is up to 1,600 cubic metres per hour while the operating pressure is 0.1-0.4 bar.
Customer relationship management
MGL has a SAP-based customer care module that is easily accessible across its offices in and around Mumbai. Customers can access information on a real-time basis, and also register queries or complaints via phone or email. They can even visit the centres in Bandra, Kandivali, Mulund and Thane between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on all days except Sundays, public holidays and the second and fourth Saturdays of the month.
For emergencies like gas leakage or fire, they can call on a 24-hour toll-free number. In February 2010, MGL launched the first online CNG station at the Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport depot in Turbhe to cater to the fuel requirements of buses arriving there. An add-itional filling capacity for private vehicles has been provided outside the station.
The implementation of systems like supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) has helped MGL by combining monitored data with demand, environmental, physical and gas composition data across the enterprise for business decision support. SCADA is a computer-based solution that helps in monitoring operations at various points in the complex network of pipelines that is used for transporting natural gas from production sources to end-consumers. It helps monitor and control natural gas flows through the pipeline by supplying data to centralised gas control stations.
Asset integrity management
MGL has adopted a holistic approach towards asset integrity management. The company’s core asset integrity approach includes undertaking quantitative risk assessments, solving hazard and operability issues, and carrying out integrity audits and competence assessments. In MGL, gas supply assets have been designed, constructed, operated and maintained to deliver optimum performance, reliability and safety throughout their working life.
For instance, for the management of change component, MGL operates through an online module that includes the scope of operational and non-operational changes. In addition, there is a preset approval matrix for typical deviations that help avoid lengthy processes of incorporating changes. The module also undertakes risk assessment and cross-functional team reviews.
The company’s integrity audit approach entails online audit reporting and action-tracking, which includes carrying out risk audits of major installations like district regulating skids, metering regulating skids and CNG stations. In addition, the online module tracks emergency preparedness and the safety of critical elements.
It has become essential for city gas distribution (CGD) companies to adopt IT systems in an increasingly competitive environment. An end-to-end IT solution facilitates smooth operations and helps utilities realise their full business potential. This is the direction in which MGL is moving.
However, keeping in mind the complex nature of the CGD business, the firm will have to continue undertaking further technological initiatives to enhance its operational efficiency.