With a major thrust on lowering the carbon footprint to address climate change issues, India, like many other countries, is attempting to increase the share of cleaner fuels in its energy mix. To this end, gas has taken centre stage in the country’s energy and climate policy landscape. The government’s policy direction for inducting more gas for the transportation and household segments is well reflected in the recently concluded rounds for city gas distribution (CGD) licences. Besides, much attention is being given to the development of pipeline networks across the country. Regions such as the Northeast, which have thus far remained the most underpenetrated gas markets, are now witnessing the setting up of mega pipeline projects. With regard to exploration and production, too, a reduction in import dependence by ramping up domestic output is gaining momentum.
However, the success of all these initiatives rests on a crucial aspect, that is, effective management of pipeline networks, which will transport gas from the source of production to the point of consumption. With new technologies and dynamic innovations surfacing in the industry, the adoption of pipeline management software has become a major investment decision for gas companies across the value chain. These solutions aid companies in overlooking the entire life-cycle of a pipeline, from implementation, asset management, to operations and maintenance.
Key downstream players such as Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL), Mahanagar Gas Limited (MGL), Green Gas Limited and GAIL Gas Limited have deployed some state-of-the-art software solutions to enhance their service delivery.
End-to-end software solutions for CGD networks
Entities such as Gujarat Gas Company Limited and Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation Limited have deployed state-of-the-art software solutions for managing their CGD networks. The utilities list among the clientele of Secon, an end-to-end software solution providing company. One of the key software solutions it provides is CityGas GIS. It is a web-enabled geographic information system (GIS) application to manage city gas distribution networks for planning, maintenance and disaster management purposes. It also includes easy retrieval of information related to detailed map features, roads and existing utility networks, existing and potential consumers, and emergency assistance centres/ locations/information. It also provides billing and consumer information, enables customised query and report generation for gas usage and maintenance statistics, etc.
Key features of CityGas GIS
- Integrated application with up-to-date information
- Pipeline management report generation, risk-modelling analysis
- Efficient data capture, management of regulatory and internal health, safety and environment (HSE) process compliance
- Decision support system for planning and emergency response
- Marketing analysis to understand consumer preferences and design innovative products
- Web/email integration for corporate and field staff
- Improved maintenance response system for carrying out field activities
The CityGas GIS application has been used extensively in CGD projects in Gujarat. In Mehsana, Sabarkantha and Gandhinagar, the software has been deployed to procure and process satellite images of pipeline networks, prepare GIS-based maps and develop web-based GIS application/ database to support the viewing of gas network details and access the overall networks. Other functions include access to consumer details, emergency assisting details, marketing and document management systems; monitoring engineering status of projects; and carrying out maintenance of the same. The software has been deployed by GAIL Gas Limited in Bengaluru and Noida to manage route survey and allied works for CGD network development.
Software applications for pipeline integrity and safety
In the past few years, a number of new and advanced technologies have been introduced by vendors to address the concerns of pipeline integrity and safety. One such advanced technology introduced by ESRI, a global supplier of GIS software, is ArcGIS. The integrated digital solution uses GIS-based technology to map pipeline networks and creates visualisation of the CGD infrastructure. Data on pipeline leakage and corrosion is captured through sensors installed on the pipelines. The generated data stream enables operators to track gas pipelines on a real-time basis. Besides, operators can analyse the pattern of tampering/pilferage in pipelines through the data analytics feature and take informed decisions. The platform also has a mobile interface, which can be used by field staff for quick information sharing to enable workflow automation for effective and efficient management. Further, mobile applications such as Collector can be used to register leakage complaints. These digital solutions are being adopted by utilities to reduce instances of pipeline leakages.
IGL has deployed GIS for mapping the complex CGD pipelines and infrastructure. As part of the GIS system, software and computer hardware is used to capture, store, analyse and present spatial data on pipelines. It enables quick leak detection and reduces the response time by providing the accurate location of the incident. It also helps in making more informed decisions about future gas distribution projects by providing information about areas that have high pipeline penetration. The data can be used for forecasting load (PNG/CNG requirement) in a particular area, thus ensuring capacity optimisation of the overall networks.
SAP is the largest software provider for CGD companies in India. Most of the key CGD players have deployed SAP-based solutions to support key business processes around metering, billing, collection, consumer service along with enterprise processes covering finance, project management, and materials and inventory management. Some of the solutions offered by SAP are customer service billing, energy portfolio management, capacity management, gas pipeline operation and operational risk management. SAP solutions can play a key role starting from the development phase to the operational phase of a CGD project. In the construction phase, specific modules of enterprise resource planning like project management, inventory management and materials management can support the processes around setting up of networks and the laying of pipelines. Once the CGD company enters the operational phase, the scope of SAP expands to back-office processes.
With the significant thrust on CGD network development in the country, there is a huge untapped potential for the deployment of software solutions, in a bid to edge-up business competence. New entrants in the industry as well as participation from international players are likely to provide further momentum to the trend in the coming years.