Over the past few years, the city gas distribution (CGD) network in the country has been expanding at a rapid pace and 10 rounds of bidding have concluded so far. The pipeline network is quite complex and volatile and thus needs to be monitored continuously. To this end, automation and control systems must be implemented. One of the key operational monitoring technologies is supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA). Its application in the CGD network helps in solving problems of data acquisition, monitoring and control, scheduling and management. Further, its varied applications such as distributed industrial control, predictive maintenance through analytics and timely detection of leakages for safety shutdown make SCADA indispensable to the functioning of CGD operators.
A SCADA system can be deployed at compressed natural gas (CNG) stations, city gas stations and industrial units. It can be used for online reconciliation of billed gas and actual consumption, and for monitoring losses at CNG stations. Besides, it can be used for centralised monitoring of trends in load and performance parameters, checking the upstream pressure for each CNG compressor, and continuous monitoring of gas flow parameters. It is also used for the identification of major pockets of pressure loss across the grid.
SCADA by MGL
Mahanagar Gas Limited (MGL) has implemented geographic information system (GIS) mapping and SCADA for efficient control and monitoring of its entire CGD network. Besides, SCADA is one of the key research and development areas for the company. MGL maintains an insurance coverage for the SCADA system. Going forward, MGL plans to expand its SCADA coverage to all city gate stations (CGSs), CNG stations, and critical sectionalising valve (SV) stations.
So far, the company has successfully sustained and enhanced its SCADA system across all the four CGSs, 246 CNG stations and two SV stations. Apart from this, it plans to cover all its CNG stations and additional SV stations. In 2019, MGL signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Tata Power to explore synergies of operation in integrated customer services, foray into emerging e-mobility business and other value-added services of common interests. The MoU facilitates both the companies to explore possibilities of cooperation in common utility revenue cycle management and customer management solutions, IT solutions, data analytics, GIS based solutions for SCADA systems, etc.
GIS integration with SCADA
Many organisations maintain separate GIS and SCADA systems. When these two systems are separate, users often need to enter the same data twice, once in each system. Combining the two systems helps make data entry processes much more efficient. It can also help avoid inconsistencies between GIS and SCADA data. Combining GIS and SCADA enables organisations to visualise dynamic data related to current conditions with static geo-information. This gives an accurate, real-time view of the system.
A GIS software can easily integrate with third party applications to streamline core business operations and increase general network efficiency. For example, with the help of GIS software, job cards from SAP can be sent directly to field workers, and real-time vehicle tracking can validate if workers are navigating to the correct location. GIS data can also be synchronised with hydraulic modelling and simulation software. Similarly, SCADA information can be displayed directly on a map using a robust GIS solution.
Even though there are many advantages of deploying the SCADA system in CGD networks, there are some key operational challenges that demand attention. These include inconsistent communication and signal strength, issues in the integration of older CNG stations with SCADA, inability to change prices from remote SCADA stations, challenges in disaster recovery, and obsolete metering infrastructure. It is important to address these challenges to ensure the effective utilisation of SCADA in CGD networks.
The deployment of automated solutions and smart meters helps CGD operators such as MGL in managing a large customer base. These solutions offer several benefits to both operators and customers. By increasing the frequency and accuracy of meter readings, non-functional meters can be tracked, thereby eliminating the instances of missed billing and leading to better cash flow. Customer satisfaction is ensured through accurate recording of the gas consumed and reconciliation of meter readings. Also, data from sensors and SCADA systems can be used to understand peak hour consumption patterns based on which differential pricing during peak hours can be introduced. Further, the issue of peak load management is being dealt with by installing smart meters. The accurate estimates of peak consumption based on consumption variability can be gauged using these meters.