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.
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.
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.
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.
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.