Increasing Automation

IGL adopts new technologies in its business operations

The city gas distribution (CGD) industry has started to recognise the need for automation and use of advanced technologies to bring down costs and increase efficiency. To this end, Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL) has provided its customers and stakeholders with the latest information technology (IT)-related services to enhance the user experience. The company is increasingly focusing on automation and digitalisation of operations to optimise internal business processes.

In the piped natural gas (PNG) segment, IGL has installed automated meter reading (AMR) systems for its 8,250 domestic customers and at all field regulating stations. It has implemented prepaid metering for 300 domestic users and smartphone-based meter readings for all its domestic customers. The company has carried out pilot trial of the optical character recognition-based AMR system for domestic consumers.

With regard to pipelines, around 39 sectionalising valves (SVs) have been automated, and are being monitored from the integrated control centre at Kaka Nagar. All the SVs are integrated into the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system, which has the following features:

  • The ON/OFF status of SVs can be monitored and controlled. It can be set on the REMOTE/LOCAL mode of operation.
  • Monitoring of live values of pressure and remote shut-off of SVs is possible.
  • Alarm and trend analysis.
  • Monitoring of process parameters of SV stations is possible.

In the compressed natural gas (CNG) segment, a monthly gas balancing sheet is generated through SAP. An online daily progress report has been developed for CNG stations, besides daily gas reconciliation software. A digital payment facility for CNG customers (debit/credit card, Paytm, etc.) has also been implemented. IGL also provides prepaid card facilities for CNG retail and fleet customers. Flow meters have been installed to measure engine consumption in all engine-driven compressor packages. CCTV cameras have been installed at all the CNG stations and can be monitored from the central control room. Automation of dispensers has made it possible to implement daily incentive schemes for CNG customers. Transaction details, pressure at the dispenser end, and station-wise reports of sale of gas are being monitored. On-line receipt printers have been installed at CNG stations. Lastly, it has also implemented the remote rate change facility.

The CGD company has also launched IGL Connect, a user-friendly mobile app for PNG customers and CNG users. The app enables them to access their accounts anytime, anywhere. PNG customers can view the billing and payment history, lodge complaints, view their complaint status, share feedbacks, update mobile and phone numbers, submit meter readings and make online payment. There is also an “INSTAPAYMENT” option available on the IGL website for online payment. PNG customers can now apply for new connections and upload their documents for the same online. CNG customers can view the nearby CNG stations on the map. They can also search for CNG stations in a particular area.

IGL smart card

In October 2017, IGL launched prepaid CNG cards for both retail and fleet operators for payment at CNG stations. Known as IGL Smart Cards, they are near-field communication-enabled, which allows customers to refuel CNG without carrying cash. There are two types of cards, namely fleet cards and retail cards. Anyone who owns commercial vehicles such as trucks, buses, goods vehicles, taxis, jeeps, vans, etc. can enrol for the fleet card programme. The fleet cards will be loaded through the central pool account of the fleet owner. An operator can access live dashboards, reports and transactions, while retail cards are for individual owner of cars, autos, taxis, goods vehicles, etc. They can also access the live dashboard, reports and transactions with the separate login IDs created for them.

Some of the features of the IGL Smart Card are:

  • All the transactions can be monitored anytime through the MIS.
  • The card can be recharged through net banking, online with debit/credit cards and at CNG stations.
  • Information regarding card balances can be accessed online.
  • Online service block/unblock option is available.
  • There is a retail outlet locator to locate IGL CNG stations.
  • PinIN-based security is employed with a separate pin for each of the user cards and a control pin to control card transactions.
  • SMS-based service is also available for the customers.
  • Retail cards are available at IGL CNG stations.
  • The cards can be instantly issued over the counter.
  • There is no lengthy process of enrolment (mobile-based issuance).
  • There is a 24×7 helpdesk for both fleet and retail customers.
  • Fleet owners can perform multiple actions on the cards (hotlist, de-hotlist, block, active, PIN change, and recharge account [manual+auto]).
  • A fleet owner can also see the transaction limits on the Fleet Pool Account page and can raise a request for new cards by clicking on “Add New Card”.

Till date, 23,631 retail cards have been issued to private vehicle owners from various IGL outlets. Around 95 per cent credit parties have shifted to the IGL Smart Card Fleet Program. Further, 260 new fleet customers have enrolled for the same. A total of 2,919 fleet cards have been issued to 482 fleet owners under the IGL Smart Card Fleet Program, which is catering to more than 10,000 vehicles (buses, RTVs and mini trucks) in Delhi NCR, Noida, Greater Noida and Ghaziabad.

Unaccounted gas

Unaccounted gas is the difference between the total gas that a CGD company purchases and the amount it ultimately delivers to customers. It includes all components of loss, such as leakage, venting and theft, and the gas used by a distribution company itself (adjusted by some companies for meter errors), billing cycle issues and other considerations. There are various reasons that result in unaccounted gas, the primary ones being pipe leakage, and measurement and accounting errors. Unaccounted gas can affect the cost and safety of service, as well as the environment. Therefore, CGD companies must measure domestic consumption at regular intervals. Sustained efforts are required for the accurate measurement of seasonal variations. Unaccounted gas should be an integral part of the network design.

Conclusion

The rapid progress of technology in the form of deployment of big data and analytics, sensors and control systems facilitating the automation of high-cost, dangerous and error-prone tasks in gas companies. Most gas operators have started tapping these opportunities. Companies that can successfully deploy automation, will significantly improve their bottom line. There is a clear competitive imperative for increasing automation in operations for higher efficiency.

Based on presentations by P.K. Pandey, Vice-President, IGL; Raman Srivastava, CGM (I&A), IGL; and Ujwal Bhandari, CGM (O&M), IGL, during ISGW 2018

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