System Integration: Digitalisation in the gas sector

Digitalisation in the gas sector

Digitalisation in the gas sector provides a better view of operations, improves maintenance and inspection regimes, and strengthens asset management. At a recent India Infrastructure conference on city gas distribution (CGD), industry experts discussed the role of digitalisation in the gas sector and the different types of technologies being adopted.

Manu Puri, Associate Director, Accenture

Global gas demand is expected to increase by almost 24 per cent from 2020 to 2030. Asia will be the key driver of global growth and will add 350 billion cubic metres of gas demand by 2030. The total demand in the CGD sector in India will grow at a CAGR of 11 per cent, mainly fuelled by the domestic gas market and private cars. Accenture is working with Indian Oil in some geographical areas (GAs). The CGD network will come up in more than 320 possible GAs by 2022 and a CNG corridor along 12,500 km of national and state highways has been planned. In India, 4,346 CNG stations are planned to be set up. Thus, there will be a huge market along with growing complexities.

There are many assets across the gas value chain. On the import and regasification side, instrumentation is required for real-time asset monitoring, predictive asset management, plant process optimisation, material and inventory management, along with digital twins and digital plants. On the transmission and distribution side, there is a need for real-time asset monitoring, predictive asset management, intelligent pipeline operations, intelligent operations and connected workers for safety issues. The retail side is similar to an electricity distribution company and requires smart metering solutions, customer lifetime value, a contact centre, pricing and campaign management.

Digitalisation for the gas market can be mapped to a typical information technology/operational technology (IT/OT) market. It consists of valves, pipes, drivers and tanks at the base level, and level sensors, a temperature controller and a chat recorder for basic process monitoring at the next level. There is a monitoring and control system on the gas/retail side and asset management on the enterprise side.

Automation and machine integration needs to happen at a stage where devices are monitored and sensors are implemented. Automation largely takes place at the basic process monitoring level. The supply side includes manufacturing solutions and mobile solutions. The customer-facing side consists of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and customer relationship management systems, which require IT security, cybersecurity, internet of things and cloud solutions. All these need to be integrated through a secure IT/OT information flow with an end-to-end approach across all systems.

The growth is expected to take place on the GA side, where all the licences are given. Most of the gas companies are adopting customer interaction practices, but supply-side automation and IT/OT integration need to take place.

Kishor Bhojawala, Vice President, HSE and AI, Gujarat Gas Limited

CGD assets consist of a steel transmission and distribution pipeline, which is bifurcated into medium density polyethylene (MDPE) at high pressure and low pressure. These are associated with different installation systems such as odoarisation, gas metering, pressure regulation stations and network isolation valves. The CNG infrastructure consists of different types of CNG stations, transport vehicles and retail outlets.

Gujarat Gas is operating in more than 25 GAs with over 24,000 km of gas pipeline network and is catering to to over 1.5 million customers. The company has more than 500 CNG stations and about 400 CNG transport vehicles. More than 0.2 million vehicles are fuelled every day. There are complexities in the installation of assets as well as overall operations in remote locations. There is a need to spread awareness among customers regarding the safe use of gas. Therefore, digitalisation, information technology and automation are needed for operating efficiently with safety. For database creation, the company requires assets; customer details including installation, billing, complaints, etc.; design documents; technical specifications; and data records related to operations and maintenance, projects, etc.

IT and automation systems help in the standardisation of workflows; enhance business and health, safety and environment (HSE) performance reporting and monitoring; and review other operational aspects. The exposure of the pipeline network to third-party activities is one of the major concerns as it can impact safety and environment. Thus, the support of automation is important.

At Gujarat Gas, continuous upgradation is taking place. It has adopted different types of technologies. Currently, system applications and products in data processing (SAP), geographic information system (GIS), and SCADA are well implemented. There is also an intranet portal called eConnect. Apart from this, the company has a vehicle tracking system, a customised software, “Dial before Dig”, to improve utility coordination and prevent damage to the network, CCTV monitors, AMR and smart meters. The HSE portal has been developed to manage HSE data, particularly incident data, technical competency, trading and performance monitoring.

Tarun Sharma, Vice President, IT and ERP, Gujarat Gas Limited

Gujarat Gas has adopted different types of technologies. SAP contains technical master data for all the assets, whether they are above the ground or below the ground such as overhead assets and pipelines. SAP helps in maintenance and planning by generating advance maintenance orders. Monitoring complaints, emergency handling, reporting required for statuary and regulatory purposes, and operation and management are done by the SAP system. All underground assets are mapped with GIS and the digitalised pipeline and CNG assets are accessible to engineers on site. The company has also integrated the SAP Customer Data platform.

All the surveys done for expanding to new areas are mapped through GIS, which helps understand the potential customers. GIS maps are also used for maintenance and patron planning. They are able to identify areas with leakages and help initiate preventive measures. Most of the city gas stations and CNG stations are connected to SCADA. The gas flow is monitored on a real-time basis through SCADA.

eConnect is an intranet portal accessible across the organisation. It is a library of documents, procedures and drawings for asset management. The portal is used for communicating announcements. Apart from this, the portal is used for workflows within the organisation.

A vehicle tracking system is also there for safety purposes and for evaluating the behaviour of drivers. Further, a new functionality will be added to the vehicle tracking system such as monitoring the pressure of the gasket on the vehicle. Gujarat Gas is undertaking fleet management to optimise the time taken to reflate and reach daughter stations. For high-end customers, automatic meter reading (AMR) systems are installed to connect industries directly to get meter readings. There are plans to further expand AMR to cater to business needs. There is also an HSE portal, which is used for online reporting of hazards or mishaps, and then subsequent actions are taken. Workplace inspection visits are documented, reports are prepared, and performance and analysis reports are made available on the portal. Quizzes on safety environment and other initiatives are conducted monthly and are accessible to all employees. To minimise the need to capture data on paper, tablets have been introduced for field staff. It helps in real-time updating of data in SAP, enhances efficiency and reduces data-related issues.

The organisation is enhancing integration between SAP, GIS and SCADA as well as the use of IT applications. Further, it is building cost-effective solutions for monitoring CNG stations, and planning to install smart and prepaid metering systems in the domestic segment.