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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.

GTI developed and began field testing of the Smart Pole Technology, an automated system to capture high-accuracy GNSS coordinates. The GNSS smart automation (GSA) equipment developed with OTD support dramatically reduces operator errors in the field data collection process. A second phase is underway, working closely with a number of utilities on field demonstrations and technology enhancements as the hardware is being optimized for the marketplace.

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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.

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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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, significantly reducing the cost and complexity of capturing real-time high-accuracy information for regulatory compliance.

With funding support from OTD, GTI researchers are developing electronic field data collection smart forms used to help encourage a transition from paper forms using Esri’s Survey123. 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. A mobile app template has been provided to Esri so other Survey123 product users can access the GTI/OTD forms through the template library.

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. Another 6-8 templates focused on leak-related issues are under development.

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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