The supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system is one of the most crucial operational technology solutions for city gas distribution (CGD) networks. The business potential for CGD networks and SCADA implementation in India is significant owing to a strong domestic consumer base for the industrial, commercial and automobile segments. With the increasing adoption of technology solutions among gas utilities, the efficiency of the CGD segment is improving.
SCADA is used by CGD industries to remotely monitor and automate the control of CGD processes and equipment. SCADA systems accomplish these functions by integrating with networks, programmable logic controllers, remote terminal units (RTUs), and sensors and equipment to collect, analyse, translate and display real-time data.
The SCADA system acquires equipment data through networked devices and sensors connected to the RTU. These devices and sensors measure parameters such as pressure, temperature and flow. The SCADA system is programmed to perform certain control decisions based on parameters received from sensors. Control functions may include closing of valves, shutting down of compressors and dispensers based on the emergency shutdown system, and gas and fire detection. RTUs collect data from inputs and sensors, and translate the data into information that can be used by the SCADA system and be understood by operators. RTUs also receive signals from the SCADA system to facilitate control functions. When abnormal conditions occur within a process, the SCADA system triggers an alarm to notify operators that something is wrong. Alarm notifications can be presented to operators in the form of audible sounds and graphical displays. All the alarms and actions are captured as events for analysis. Human-machine interface displays actionable information collected from the RTU. The information is displayed in the form of graphical pictures representing real-world objects (pumps, tanks, etc.), as well as data charts, tables and performance reports.
The web application offers direct connectivity to the SCADA software to generate real-time report. It leverages automation data to generate reports which help make the best operational decisions. Further, the web application enables users to access reports over the internet through interactive dynamic dashboards within seconds.
Journey management systems
Before journey management systems came into existence, all vehicle information was recorded manually and was dependent on a person. However, now, journey management systems can capture all the information and generate various reports such as distance travelled, time taken, waiting time, filling time, idling time, decanting time, and quantities filled at the mother station and decanted at daughter booster stations. Based on data for idling time, decanting time helps in optimising the required number of vehicles. It provides a digital record for all parameters. Further, the system integrates with SCADA and helps in allocating trips based on demand. There is a different login identification for different drivers which is a pin-based authentication.
The quality and construction management (QCM) application is a tailor-made solution that can capture construction-related project activities, material traceability, virtual store, quality validation, digitalised information, industry-level construction reports and progress monitoring. THINK Gas has been using this application for the past two years and has enabled field users to collect steel pipes and medium density polyethylene more than 1,700 km across all the geographical areas. The high-accuracy device integration with the QCM mobile app helps capture the coordinates of assets with 30-40 cm accuracy before they are buried in the ground. The primary objective of the QCM solution implementation was to fulfil the requirement of who did what, when, and where, and was it done right. Key modules of QCM are user management, store management, product management, vendor management, global positioning system integration, activity reports, material traceability, quality assurance, mobile data collection, etc.
Integration of QCM with the geographic information system (GIS) has resulted in timely availability of credible data, enhanced reliability of information on locations and saved crucial man hours in drafting and plotting pipelines manually in the GIS. Now, there is a single platform to view the entire pipeline network or assets. The land base along with the building layer is uploaded on the GIS to know the domestic potential of an area targeted for conversion. It has helped in improving the efficiency of CGD network planning.
Cathodic protection (CP) manager is used to view CP readings’ history graphs in different formats. It helps in the process of monitoring, measuring and maintaining the necessary levels of CP and makes CP data more manageable. CP readings are used to identify faults and suggest rectification. Affected customer counts and their details can be fetched and they can be intimated about a gas outage or gas restoration in their area.
In addition to gas, there are various other things such as water supply, sewerage, electricity and communication under the roads, and road excavation works (referred to as third-party work) which are carried out for maintenance. When carrying out third-party work near the gas pipeline, Osaka Gas always asks for prior consultation so that the gas pipeline is not damaged during excavation. However, there are cases where third-party work is carried out without notification, and patrols are conducted on roads where high-pressure gas pipelines are buried. It is possible to reliably catch and respond to third-party construction that has not been notified to Osaka Gas by installing an artificial intelligence camera on the city bus route.
AI automatically recognises traffic cones and construction signs as construction features. The AI camera is equipped with the global positioning system, and it is possible to detect third-party construction work along medium pressure gas pipelines.
Key issues and challenges
It remains a challenge to build digital platforms to manage day-to-day CGD operations. There is a lack of fit-for-purpose technology. Other challenges include the availability of the right instruments and equipment, choosing the right software for the purpose of work, and picking up the right implementation partner to complete the job which is a critical part. Further, there is resistance to adopting new technologies. Also, there is a need to conduct training for upgrading the team.
Another challenge is that compared to 700 km high pressure gas pipelines, medium pressure gas pipelines are over 6,000 km long and many personnel are required to protect these long pipelines. This is why improving the efficiency of inspection is important.
Heavy commercial vehicles (HCVs) are becoming critical and if there are too many in the system, it adds to the cost. If there are fewer HCVs, it negatively impacts customers. Thus, there should be a proper balance between the number of HCVs being deployed in the CGD segment. Other challenges are related to the authentication and verification of documents for compressed natural gas cylinders which were unavailable with the owner when they register for the first time.
Domestic meters running on Bluetooth are being used, but commercial meters have a proprietary protocol. So, whatever data comes in, goes into their server; it is still not in the open market. It would be better if there is an open protocol so that it is easily accessible and comes under one umbrella.
Future plans include adopting internet of things SCADA technology to build a web-based system enabled with features such as real-time congestion monitoring, bay-wise utilisation, customer identification, ad hoc reporting, demand forecasting, custom business metrics, and an event-driven system.
Based on remarks by Satyajeet Shinde, Vice-President, O&M, THINK Gas; and Anant Basaveshwar Rubade, Vice-President, AG&P Pratham, at a recent India Infrastructure conference