Expanding Coverage: Efforts to build a robust pipeline network

India is working towards bridging the gap between demand and supply of resources su­ch as water, oil and gas by building an adequate pipeline network. In order to cater to the increasing demand, augmentation of the cu­rrent pipeline infrastructure is required. The government, municipal corporations and oil and gas supply companies are implementing several measures aimed at expanding network coverage, ensuring round-the-clock supply.

Water pipeline infrastructure

Water scarcity is a major issue that affects the environment, industry, economy and quality of life. Factors such as population growth, climate change and ageing pipeline infrastructure can be attributed for the same. The ageing wa­ter distribution infrastructure is a significant contributing factor to the problem of water sc­a­r­city. The pipeline network was established many years ago, during a period of considerably lower de­mand and a smaller population. As a result of leaks in the pipelines, water is eventually lost because the pipeline network is unable to handle the pressure of the growing demand.

Utilities in India are working towards upgra­ding and maintaining the age-old pipeline infrastructure in their respective cities. By managing pipeline infrastructure, utilities can promptly detect and repair leaks in a timely ma­n­ner and ensure the protection of vital assets and the environment. The government, with progra­m­mes such as the Jal Jeevan Mi­s­sion and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Tra­nsfor­mation (AMRUT), is also working towards providing universal piped water supply to households with a number of new water supply projects, such as freshwater treatment, wa­ter distribution systems in underdeveloped areas, sustainable water supply in terms of both quantity and quality, smart solutions such as supervisory control and data acquisition, and incentives for last-mile connectivity to households.

Recent initiatives

Under the Jal Jeevan Mission, as of October 20, 2023, around 70 per cent of rural households in India have been provided tap water connections. States and union territories such as Goa, Andaman & Nicobar, Dadra & Nagar Ha­veli, Daman & Diu, Haryana, Telangana, Pudu­cherry, Gujarat, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh have achieved 100 per cent rural household coverage under this mission. The plan of the government is to provide 100 per cent tap water connection all over rural India by 2024.

Meanwhile, under AMRUT, many urban local bodies (ULBs) are undertaking initiatives to upgrade water supply distribution in their re­spective cities. For instance, the Gurugram Me­t­ro­politan Development Authority has approved a proposal worth around Rs 1.25 billion to lay a 20-km water supply pipeline from the Basai water treatment plant to supply adequate po­table water to Palam Vihar and adjoining areas of the Dwarka Expressway. In a similar de­velop­ment, the Madurai Municipal Corpora­tion is laying drinking water supply pipeline to bridge the gap between demand and supply of water. The current requirement of the city is around 300 million litres per day (mld), but it only receives around 165 mld of water. The 1,668 km pipe­line work is expected to improve the distribution network in the city and resolve the problem of water shortage.

New-age technological initiatives will play a major role in optimising maintenance schedules, reducing operational costs, and enhancing the efficiency and longevity of the pipeline infrastructure. To this end, the Indian In­sti­tute of Technology Madras has launched Swasth AI, a robot that can detect leaks in water and sewer pipes. This robot is expected to help maintain and manage the entire distribution net­work through one accessible interface, providing data visualisation support and en­abling stakeholders to easily access and interpret da­ta relevant to their specific needs.

Future potential

Utilities are using asset management techniques more frequently in the water industry to evaluate and maintain their pipeline assets. In order to supply clean drinking water to every household in the country round the clock, they are also concentrating on building a robust pi­peline network. As of September 2023, according to India Infrastructure Research, pipeline network lengths of around 4,500 km and 160,000 km are expected to be added in the water and wastewater treatment segments, re­s­pectively. This is expected to create a de­mand for high-density polyethylene, ductile iron, galvanised iron, RCC, steel and pre-stre­ssed concrete pipe manufacturers.

Oil and gas pipeline infrastructure

The government is focusing on increasing the share of natural gas in the primary energy mix, provide access to clean and green fuel throughout the country, connect gas sources to major demand centres and ensure availability of gas to city gas distribution (CGD) centres. To this end, it launched the One Nation One Gas Grid scheme, which is aimed at developing natural gas infrastructure in the country. According to the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Bo­ard (PNGRB), as of June 2023, over 33,000 km of natural gas pipeline network has been au­tho­rised across India. Of this, over 23,000 km is already operational and more than 12,000 km is under construction. The under-construction common carrier pipe­lines include Kaki­nada–Vizag–Srikakulam, Ennore-Nellore, the North-East natural gas pipeline grid and Hazaribagh-Ranchi.

Similarly, efforts are ongoing for the expansion of oil pipeline infrastructure to meet the growing demand. According to the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell, as of September 1, 2023, India has more than 10,000 km of crude oil pipelines, with a total capacity of over 150 mmtpa.

Recent developments

In an effort to expand the supply of oil and its products, Indian Oil Corporation Limited is de­ve­loping the Paradip-Hyderabad project starting from Odisha to Telangana. The 1,212 km pipeline project is being laid for evacuating whi­te oil products from Paradip refinery to Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Telangana. The project is expected to be completed by March 2024.

Meanwhile, the Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga pipeline started supplying gas in April 2023 to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal as well as to the north-eastern region. This project has benefits such as the cheapest transportation of gas. Under the unified tariff regulations notified by PNGRB, the transportation tariff has been cut by about 50 per cent to Rs 99.90 per million British thermal units for the eastern region, helping make the clean fuel more affordable.

Future plans

The government has set ambitious targets for multiple pipeline infrastructure projects. The target is to raise the share of gas in the energy mix to 15 per cent by 2030. To this end, the re-gasification capacity is expected to expand co­nsiderably, with new terminals and pipelines coming up in the future. According to PNGRB, India’s gas pipeline network has grown to around 23,000 km and is expected to reach over 33,000 km over the next four to five years. Further, with the completion of the 12th CGD bidding round, the entire country is expected to have CGD connection.

Naina Gulati