Leveraging information technology tools to help gas utilities effectively manage and improve day-to-day operations

GTI’s solution-based focus helps operators collect the right information, in real-time, with a high level of accuracy, and incorporates leading-edge technologies such as global positioning systems (GPS) / global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), artificial intelligence, machine learning, wireless devices, and communication within the Internet of Things (IoT). The high-quality data collected supports risk analysis to drive effective organizational decision-making.

Internet of Things (IoT) technology is transforming operators’ business functions by allowing them to employ automated monitoring systems to capture real-time operations data, either in person or remotely. Communication channels and connected hardware are creating low-cost options for enhanced monitoring of systems performance.

Using Automation to Increase the Quality and Consistency of Location Data Collected Using Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Receivers

The GNSS receivers smart automation (GSA) equipment developed by GTI with OTD support promises a dramatic reduction in operator errors in the field data collection process. Smart Pole Technology is an automated system to capture high-accuracy GNSS coordinates. It is a hardware device with software logic that automatically collects geospatial point estimates from a Global GNSS receiver predefined quality metrics are encountered.

In 2019, a second project phase working with utilities on field demonstrations was completed, and lessons learned are being integrated into phase 3. Pilot tests and technology enhancements are now underway as the hardware is being optimized for the marketplace and commercialization partners are being sought.

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Streamlining Record Keeping Workflow Using Lead-Edge Technologies

GTI has been working to digitize field data collection and integrate it with geospatial data to optimize the entire data management process for utility and pipeline operations. With funding support from OTD, researchers are collaborating with Esri to develop electronic field data collection forms using Esri’s Survey123 to streamline record-keeping workflow.

The easy-to-use smart forms will significantly reduce barriers to entry for utilities making the transition to electronic recordkeeping by minimizing the cost and complexity of capturing real-time high-accuracy information for regulatory compliance.

The electronic smart forms are capable of doing things like performing in-field calculations in real-time, using logic to help the user answer only the appropriate questions, and incorporate high-precision spatial location data. Combined with a remote inspection technology, these forms can be shared with remote supervisors for immediate feedback.

The standardized forms were developed in a collaborative environment and reflect broad industry input and perspectives, so they serve as a great starting point for utilities’ information collection needs.

First to be officially released is the Indoor Meter Set Relocation Risk Assessment survey, which provides utilities with a form to inspect indoor meter sets and evaluate installation locations based upon a built-in risk assessment. Scores are dynamically calculated based on the user’s response to the questions within the survey. Mobile app templates for four additional surveys have been created and Survey123 users can access the GTI/OTD forms through the template library.

IoT sensors capture data to assist with understanding and optimizing system performance while limiting personnel site visits. A methane emissions monitoring tool, which creates a wireless network of sensors intended to provide full situational awareness of the location and concentration of leaks at multiple points via smart-phone or tablet, was developed by GTI with support from OTD. SENSIT Technologies has licensed the technology to bring it to market. Field testing and demonstrations are underway with first responders, and a utility measurement use case is assessing semi-permanent, longer-range wireless access to monitor leaks over time. GTI is also performing early-stage research related to real-time monitoring of methane concentrations, pressure levels, and a variety of other operating condition metrics.

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Tools to provide advanced warning and improved accuracy to locate and identify potential underground conflicts and third-party damage are also being developed and commercialized. A cutting-edge Excavation Encroachment Notification (EEN) system that provides real-time feedback and alerts during digging activity is commercialized as UtilAlert™ by Hydromax USA, LLC.

In addition to these activities, GTI has established a consortium membership program to facilitate the sharing of information related to the use of GNSS technology for utility and pipeline operations. The GNSS Consortium is a cost-effective way for users to better understand this rapidly changing technology and how GNSS can best be applied to daily operations to create operational efficiencies, enhance regulatory compliance, and improve the quality of field collected data. The Consortium develops new technologies and best practices, conducts workshops, pilot projects, and demonstrations and promotes general information sharing among GNSS users.


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