YMS Pipeline Integrity Management System Among World's Best

The 25th World Gas Conference ended a few weeks ago. On the 24th one, a Slovak gas company introduced results of a research project that helped to produce a unique way of evaluating risk on compressor stations. Until now no one was able to cover risk on pipe systems in such a complex manner. Along with other modern modules, the Slovak Gas Information System belongs to worldwide top.

Same data, different viewpoints

A manager planning a repair on any part of the transit network works with data about faults (e.g.: corrosion, isolation, etc.). He must equally take into account other risks on the chosen network part, possible consequences on external systems, as well as on environment, which the network is transiting.  A technologist looks through technological schemes of equipment connection, a technician who sets out the exact point of intervention looks at the same equipment in the geographic information system, a planner in realistic 3D models. Workers in the field survey technical documents in their mobile phones and receive their personal protective work tools according to exact risks that jeopardize them while carrying out the specific tasks. Procurement is interested in expected repair costs, finance in overall costs, and company management in overall cost efficiency and benefits for the future.

Therefore, a modern information system for operation and maintenance in the gas industry and other utility industries requires different professional viewpoints for the same data. Yet it is not enough to “dump” company data into one common information system. It is important that digital documentation and digital technological schemes are complemented with in-depth, professional modules with customized analytical tools that are interconnected and regularly updated. Simply stated  – different professional views of the same data, where different professions work with only that kind of information, which they need, knowing that the work of their colleagues is always reflected in the data. Including those, who are in the field and using their mobile devices change the “picture” in real time.

Space Management and 3D

The connection point for most professional modules is the geospatial information system (GIS) with maps, information about the environment and situational maps. Unlike common GIS systems, the utility GIS system also includes 3D models. 3D modeling significantly specifies information, realistically displays equipment located aboveground and underground and visualizes complicated technological units that are invisible to the naked eye.

3D model, for example, exactly specifies the real length of the transit pipeline. The 3D model eliminates the distortion that occurs in reflecting 3D space to flat surface, as it happens with 2D images. And exact data on the length of the transit pipeline are not only important for documentation purposes. They help utility companies improve other important actions. For example, exact calculation of transit costs and elimination of losses that might occur with incorrect calculations.

3D model would, however, not fulfill its purpose, if the data in all the systems were not also processed in 3D. The processed 3D data are used further for a variety of other, less and more complicated analyses and simulations, which are important for flawless operation of the whole transit pipeline. For example, the 3D model traces gas flow inside the pipeline, taking into account fixtures and other pipeline technologies that are not visible to the naked eye. It also helps to calculate the volume of gas closed in different parts of the complicated pipeline, which is almost impossible to do using standard methods.

Safety with Digital Simulation

The key requirement of utility companies is knowledge and work with risk, the so called modeling of pipeline risks (MPR). It concerns risks on pipelines that are located deep in the ground and exposed to environmental influences, pressure, corrosion, floods, landslides, human interferences, crossing with other utilities, etc. It also concerns risks on equipment, the real status of which is not possible to check with common methods, because they are located in complicated connections on unreachable places. MPR uses a great amount of real and anticipated data and models the probability of occurrence of a risk event. It simulates how a risk situation will change if the company undertakes a chosen correction action, how much this action will cost and how the real risk will decrease.

Like this, pipeline risk models fulfill two major roles. They help companies unveil potential risks early. They also provide the managers with the possibility to plan, in advance and in detail, a variety of different correction options using the “highest possible risk decrease against lowest possible expended resources” rule. This modeling saves utility companies hundreds of thousands EUR on maintenance, or resultant correction measures that would have to be undertaken after malfunctions or breakdowns. Moreover, all repairs are undertaken with great accuracy, often down to centimeters. (Imagine how different just the dig-out costs must be when you know the exact location of the fault that you are planning to repair).

Lower Costs, Higher Accessibility

Decreasing of costs, better utilization of company resources and acceleration of communication are the key reasons for utility companies to introduce the so called “mobile” systems. It means online communication between field workers and their coordinating centers. Planning and assigning work tasks, checking completed tasks and recording newly discovered faults is carried out online, in real time.

Calculation of benefits and savings is generally much easier than with more complex, technical systems. At the foremost, the work of coordinators, dispatchers or managing centres is becoming more efficient. They have instant overview of the real status of work orders assigned to all work crews, they can intervene immediately and better plan crews’ working hours. Savings are hidden in hours that crews save by moving directly to their assigned work locations, or when they do not have to commute to coordination centres to pick up their daily or weekly work orders. The amount of necessary driving also decreases, because communication goes on directly in the field, in real time.

HSE with Controlled Risk      

The mosaic of work with risk is complete with processing the health, safety and environment (HSE) agenda. In gas information systems, employee work safety is evaluated based on real risks that jeopardize employees while carrying out particular work tasks, while operating special technical equipment or manipulating with dangerous chemical substances. Personal protection tools are also assigned according to particular work tasks and related work risks.

Unlike common HSE systems, the gas information system integrates the HSE agenda with the procurement agenda. The system automatically predicts the need of personal protection tools in the future and at the same time takes into account real work wear and tear, independent of the length of lifespan given by the supplier. Like that it simplifies difficult logistics and administration connected with the HSE agenda, minimizes warehouse stock of personal protective tools and supports optimalisation of personal resources.

Trade Online

Liberalisation of the gas market and EU regulation required also flexible reactions to market needs and better utilization of own resources. A modern electronic trade dispatching enables just this, because it connects two important functions: external customer information system and internal trade dispatching. Trade dispatchers process the complex trade agenda for a large number of clients online and almost automatically, they monitor real gas flow and free transit or storage capacities.

Electronic dispatching provides a large number of benefits for the customers, too. Via a web portal, they can also monitor gas flow and capacity status, like the dispatchers. Moreover, they have to their disposal all trade conditions, including a price calculator, which instantly calculates the price of a planned trade. If they decide to trade, they receive a customer account, on which they every day monitor the development of their trading and can plan new contracts. All that from their own office, professionally and online.