Digitalisation Initiatives: Facilitating pipeline network management

Various aspects of the oil and gas, and water sectors are advancing towards digitalisation in different ways. The pipeline networks of these sectors require advanced technological methods during construction, monitoring, inspection and testing, as well as for leakage control and failure auditing. The Indian market is rapidly opening up avenues for better construction material, the deployme­nt of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the incorporation of intelligent software. Data processing for pipeline construction can be im­pro­ved manyfold through the use of digital platfor­ms. This, in turn, would reduce re­sponse time during emergency events. The in­te­gration of a digital network with the entire ecosystem (in­cluding parts, operations and monitoring) can enhance efficiency and boost output, enabling higher profits.

GIS mapping

The construction of pipeline infrastructure in the oil and gas, and water sectors demands a well-planned network. This network cannot be implemented in isolation. It requires synchronisation with other infrastructure layers, above or underground. Geospatial planning is critical for such carefully laid networks in order to avoid disruptions from other construction activities. As of July 2022, Genesys International, a survey mapping and 3D content company, and ESRI India, India’s leading Geographic Informa­tion System (GIS) software and solutions provider, are collaborating to enable 3D modelling of Indian cities. This will enable the government to use various engineering data layers for construction and asset management, helping them as well as private players create better infrastructure and deliver public utilities more efficiently across various sectors, including oil and gas, and water.

In a step towards optimising the construction and management of water utilities, Thri­ss­ur Municipal Corporation has incorporated an integrated solution with ArcGIS, whi­ch in­clu­des a central repository of water pipe­lines and consu­m­er networks, and the adoption of hydraulic mo­delling. This predictive analytics system estima­t­es and ensures the feasibility of new user connections on the basis of existing consumption loads, water pressure and other parameters.

In the oil and gas sector, the construction process has begun integrating quality control and management solutions with GIS. This sets a foundation for the demands and the conformity criteria of a project. The construction data is directly captured on-site to optimise the proce­ss. This synched mechanism enables ti­me­ly availability of credible data and enhanc­ed reliability of information on locations, and saves time by eliminating the need to draft and plot pipelines manually.

Bringing efficiency with SCADA

In order to better manage the existing water pipeline network and streamline its management process, urban local bodies are incorporating technologies such as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) in their day-to-day operations. SCADA systems provide data such as the pressure and flow of water at important locations in the network. SCADA has already been adopted in cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune and Ahmedabad.

To efficiently increase the supply of tertiary water and address water quality issues, Chan­digarh Municipal Corporation plans to implement SCADA. It has upgraded the existing pipeline network with sensors to monitor water pressure and provide live updates on water quality.

Meanwhile, to fulfil the 24×7 water supply target under the Atal Mission for Rejuve­na­tion and Urban Transformation scheme, Vijaya­wada Municipal Corporation (VMC) has undertaken work on new water pipelines. As of Sep­tem­ber 27, 2022, VMC is laying direct pipelin­es from the reservoir to the district monitoring areas (DMA) so that an equal amount of water is received by each DMA. This will be enabled by the installation of pressure meters and flow me­ters, which will be monitored through SCADA. With the help of automatic water me­ters and their connection to the SCADA centre, water leakages can be detected by registering differences in the water supplied.

Similarly, Asea Brown Boveri India has im­ple­mented a state-of-the-art, customised SCADA system for Assam Gas Company Limited, covering 74 tea estates and six large industrial users in the first phase. The project will be carried out in two phases, covering a total of 399 tea es­tates. The “SCADAvantage” system offers en­han­­c­­ed control and real-time monitoring of gas flow, as well as secure and reliable administration of distributed assets.

Drone-based surveillance

Oil and gas pipeline networks need constant monitoring and regulation to ensure safety compliance. The need for heat-sensitive cameras and sensors to aid safe navigation through re­stricted spaces, calls for the use of drones. With integrated image recognition technology and to­ols to analyse and review data, drones eliminate the risks involved with manual inspection. They also reduce downtime while delivering efficient results. As of November 2021, a hybrid fixed-wing, vertical take-off and landing-based drone has been deployed to survey a pipeline of Hin­dustan Petroleum Corporation Limited, which ex­tends from Delhi to Haryana. A 51 km test fli­ght of the drone, enabled by a tracker mechanism and entirely on autopilot, was conducted by Omnipresent Robot Technologies, a robotics and drone company.

Oil India Limited (OIL) also launched an am­bitious drone surveillance project in October 2021 to enable complete visibility of crude oil delivery lines and flowlines, strengthening operations and ensuring the security of national assets. Under its Digital Readiness for Innova­tion and Value in Exploration and Production initiative, the drone surveillance project was launched at OIL’s field headquarters in Duliajan in eastern Assam. This surveillance technology ensures that the pipelines are constantly being scanned and monitored, enabling speedier detection of fire, crude oil leaks and spills; and near-real-time detection of intruders. This, in turn, allows OIL to take proactive measures to increase performance and efficiency.

Other technologies

The inspection of gas pipeline girth welds has advanced to the point of deploying au­tomated ultrasonic testing. This technology uses high frequency sound wave principles, eliminating radiation hazards. Robotic cra­wle­rs, which can be remotely navigated through vari­ous difficult geometries, are being used for inspection of in­accessible pipelines. Video ca­meras installed on the crawlers record pipe­line interiors, while electromagnetic acoustic transducers and laser gauges measure their wall thickness and contour the interiors.

As of July 2022, TCR Engineering is executing 84 gas pipeline testing projects across India. This includes radiography and non-destructive tests for their projects, such as slurry gas pipe­lines of leading oil and gas companies. TCR is wo­r­king on Indian Oil Corporation Limited’s Ka­ndla-Gorakhpur LPG pipeline, Gas Authority of India Limited’s Srikakulam-Angul project, and an onshore gas pipeline from Andhra Pradesh to Orissa, alongside other large-scale projects.

In sum

There is still a long way to go for the pipeline infrastructure of the oil and gas, and water sectors in terms of technological advancements. As of March 2022, ESRI is taking active measures to integrate Building Information Modelling with GIS for various utilities, including in the oil and gas, and water sectors, under the Gati Shakti pro­gra­mme. While the water sector has taken the leap of switching to digital platforms, it is still grappling with major challenges posed by the tr­ansition. An audit conducted by the Comp­troller and Auditor General of India to assess the pipe­line network and the underground utility mapping in Bengaluru showed many discrepancies in the GIS data of the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board. The audit also reported the lack of a system for validating data, leading to damage to the pipelines during road construction projects.

Leaders in oil and gas infrastructure such as Pipeline Infrastructure Limited depend on third party services for remote monitoring and diagnostics of their products, while using real-time data for predictive analytics. OIL and Na­tu­ral Gas Corporation, and Bharat Petro­leum Cor­poration Limited, among others, are looking forward to a future where they can ensure the quality and optimisation of data through wider digital transformation across the whole oil and gas value chain.