Asset management is a systematic process of maintaining, upgrading, and operating physical assets cost-effectively. The geographic information system (GIS) has emerged as a powerful technology for asset management as it allows users to integrate their data and methods with traditional forms of geographical operations such as map overlay analysis. GIS helps in viewing the required information in advanced geographical maps, providing a more holistic view of infrastructure and assets. Given that the city gas distribution (CGD) network is also a part of infrastructure development in the country, it is essential to deploy GIS in this segment and strengthen the management of gas pipeline network information.
Necessity of GIS
While planning and designing a CGD network, it is important to project demand growth for the next decade to avoid frequent network upgrades and estimate the spare capacity. In addition, the service areas of city gas stations and district pressure regulator stations (DPRSs) must be clearly defined so that there is an optimal number of DPRSs. Besides, routes must be identified in a way that the maximum reach is achieved with the minimum length of the pipeline; supply pressure at the consumer and intermediate points must not over/undersize any element; and minimal time should be taken for network designing.
Company initiative – SECON
SECON Private Limited is a geospatial and multidiscipline engineering consulting firm. Established in 1981, the company provides comprehensive multidisciplinary solutions for the entire life cycle of an infrastructure project. Its GIS-based asset management tools are used in CGD planning.
CityGas, the company’s web-based GIS system, is capable of handling a city gas network by maintaining up-to-date information in a centralised enterprise database; providing support for analysis, engineering, operations and management (O&M); planning activities; and acting as a valuable decision support system for emergency response. The system provides a spatial view of the CGD network, consumer information, emergency support, management information system (MIS) reporting, engineering, and O&M. CityGas is an effective marketing tool for CGD companies.
In order to deploy CityGas in CGD companies, the first step involves the procurement of high resolution satellite images and setting up of ground control points for georeferencing. A large-scale digital base map is then prepared using satellite images of the road network, along with residential and industrial information. A pipeline network comprising steel pipelines, feeder pipelines, etc. is superimposed on the map with field verification and site updating services. A final base map is generated on a 1:3,000 scale. This is followed by preparation of the final consumer database and compilation of the GIS database for different cities.
The MIS reports generated during the O&M of gas pipelines are then integrated with the GIS database. The final step requires the development of a web-based GIS application, CityGas, for handling the city gas network on the web.
CityGas offers various modules such as:
- Map viewer: It allows users to view GIS data in the map window and navigate the GIS map using the zoom-in, zoom-out, pan-all-over-the-map and feature identification tools.
- Marketing: It helps analyse and prioritise marketing zones, enables consumer search and provides customised query functionalities.
- Engineering: It is required for accessing engineering details and drawings, and calculating material-take off for a selected network of map.
- Health, safety and engineering: It provides access to emergency support details.
- O&M: It includes the issue and maintenance of work permit documents, utility reports, compliance details and incident details, as well as dynamic report generation.
- Document management system (DMS): It helps upload, search and modify digital documents and reports.
- Administration: It includes user access control settings and user management.
- Employee details: It provides access to employee details.
- Help menu: It is an online digital help manual with complete application usage details along with the working procedure.
- CityGas GIS creates a base map having an accuracy of ±50 cm.
- It facilitates asset management for the complete life cycle of the CGD network.
- The system provides web-based handling of the CGD network with up-to-date information about customers, engineering, document management, MIS reports, etc.
- It provides a valuable decision support system for emergency response, while improving the maintenance response system for carrying out field activities.
- The application is an effective marketing tool for CGD companies.
- Query builder: This tool allows users to build dynamic customised search queries.
- Material-take off: It allows users to get a list of materials such as inventory, pipes and valves used within a selected area or for the entire city.
- Marketing priority: This tool provides assistance to the marketing team. By selecting two or more regions within a city, this tool ana-lyses and finds the region where the marketing team’s concentration has to be more.
- Emergency tool: It is a spatial-graphical search tool. By specifying a point in the city and a radius, the user can get information about emergency support systems such as police stations and hospitals within the circular radius. This tool is useful in cases of emergency such as accidents and blasts.
- City summary: By using this tool, a user can generate a summary report for a selected region or for the entire city. The report will have extensive details pertaining to the area, region, office address, as well as information about pipeline fittings such as valve chamber, tee, cap, saddle, skid, coupler, reducers and meter stations, and the number and type of consumers.
- Consumer search: This tool allows users to search for consumers within the city. Consumers can be searched based on parameters like name and identity.
- Search network: It allows the user to specify a pipe diameter and search for all the pipes within the city with the specified diameter.
- Utility report: This tool allows users to generate the utility listing report for a region within the city. Given a region, the tool lists the location and details of all utilities like railway lines, roads and drainage systems within the region.
- Downstream consumers: This tool requires users to specify a district regulating station (DRS), based on which the tool lists all the consumers connected to the specified DRS.
- Upstream valve: This tool requires users to specify a pipe segment, based on which the tool finds the service regulator, the valve chamber or the DRS to which the selected pipe segment is connected.
- GAIL Gas: The company is in the process of centralising its GIS in all the cities where it is operating through the common GIS platform. In 2014-15, it implemented a web-based GIS for its operations in Dewas city on a pilot basis.
- Maharashtra Natural Gas Limited: In December 2015, the company floated a tender for the implementation of a GIS-based assessment system for its CGD network in Pune. It also entails arc mapping and system maintenance for five years.
- PNGRB: In August 2015, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) directed all the CGD entities (authorised by the PNGRB) to expedite works pertaining to GIS mapping on their respective networks for completion within the stipulated time frame, and share GIS details with the state municipal authorities, in a bid to make the latter aware of the GIS coordinates of the network. The entities were also advised to web host the relevant information with regard to GIS implementation. This would reduce the chances of third- party damage to the CGD network.
Physical assets dominate the balance sheets of most utility companies but data deficiencies have often undermined asset management processes. The use of GIS will improve data quality management, help identify issues, and also facilitate their resolution. As the industry matures, the need for GIS in gas distribution is bound to increase. Standards, specifications and technical improvements are constantly evolving to ease and facilitate the interoperability between GIS and non-GIS applications used by gas utilities. Considering the complex nature of the CGD business and the competitive environment, GIS adoption will help gas utilities improve the efficiency of their operations.