The city gas distribution (CGD) sector in India is poised to grow, both in terms of market size and network. As such, it provides an increasing role for digitalisation and technological advancements. Digitalisation in CGD involves a centralised real-time monitoring and control system. It can be achieved by implementing the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system and general services platform (GSP), and by using management dashboards and advanced analytics. It involves mapping of all assets with real-time status geographic information systems (GIS), designing of apps for customers, and the installation of smart metering solutions for domestic, industrial and commercial piped natural gas (PNG) customers.
Digitalisation benefits in CGD networks
Automation in CGD results in increased efficiency and productivity, and improved safety and transparency in operations. It enables CGD operators to achieve better customer service and satisfaction, making them a key part of the modern smart city ecosystem.
Key components of an automated system
Amongst the pioneers, Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL) has switched to an automated CGD system, with its processes integrated into a GSP. The system entails the establishment of a master control centre and installation of a laser video wall for the overall control and monitoring.
Data generation through SAP: The transaction details, pressure at the dispenser end, and station-wise report of gas sale are monitored through systems, applications and products (SAP)-generated data. Remote rate change facility, digital payment facility and prepaid card facility for compressed natural gas (CNG) retail and fleet customers have been provided. Daily gas reconciliation software has been developed and a monthly gas balancing sheets are generated through SAP. Also, online receipt printers have been installed at CNG stations. Automation of dispensers has made it possible to implement a daily incentivising scheme for CNG customers.
Implementation of SCADA: The values of process parameters such as gas pressure, temperature and flow rate in CNG station equipment are monitored and are fed to the SCADA database through application of a business analytics tool. Control related to on-off and price change can be monitored at each CNG station. In the context of PNG supply, sectionalising valves are monitored from the central control room with respect to live pressure, and on-off status, and are integrated into the SCADA system.
Video analytics: Video analytics is advantageous for IGL in maintaining security at stations and is achieved through functionalities such as automatic number plate recognition, facial recognition, identification of people intruding in the compressor area, live streaming for multiple users, fire and smoke detection, camera off registration and left object detection. Video analytics has helped in providing integrated security solutions. Static guarding with Android devices is taken up at sectional valves, CNG stations and IGL stores. Existing CCTV cameras installed at CNG stations and IGL stores have been integrated with the local and the central control room.
AMR system: IGL is implementing automatic meter reading (AMR) system for industrial and commercial customers having consumption greater than 10 standard cubic metres per day (SCMD), prepaid metering system for industrial and commercial customers, and retrofitting the existing domestic meters with AMR in a phased manner. Smartphone application for usage and payments through IGL Connect, smartphone-based meter readings for all domestic customers and pilot trial of optical character recognition (OCR)-based AMR system for domestic customers have also been implemented by IGL. Other features included in the GSP are the implementation of GIS, reporting and dashboards for IGL processes, remote sensors, odorising unit to monitor the odorant level, pressure, temperature and injection rate values and development of the work permit app.
There are several challenges faced while setting up automated CGD systems. The absence of global standards for information technology – operation technology (IT-OT) devices, interoperability issues, adherence to statutory compliances, threat to cybersecurity and overdependence on foreign solutions are some of the main challenges faced by CGD operators.
Conclusion and the way forward
Digitalisation and automation enable CGD operators to take data-driven and faster business decisions, increase their operational efficiency and reduce downtimes. They improve customer service and help CGD utilities become smart utilities.