Asset management solutions have become crucial for increasing the life of assets and bringing efficiency in the city gas distribution (CGD) sector’s day-to-day operations. AG&P Pratham is playing a significant role in India’s transition to a gas economy by supplying natural gas to 34 districts across five states – Rajasthan, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. It holds 12 geographical areas (GAs), awarded by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board, to supply piped natural gas (PNG) to households, commercial businesses and industries; and compressed natural gas (CNG) to the automotive industry. The company’s CGD network spans about 278,000 sq. km. According to the Minimum Work Programme, AG&P Pratham is set to add 17,000 inch-km of pipeline and over 1,500 new CNG stations in India.
As of December 2022, AG&P Pratham had one operational city gate station, nine commissioned liquefied CNG stations and 234 CNG stations. In terms of pipeline development, the company has commissioned a total of 4,726 inch-km of steel pipeline and 3,087 inch-km of medium density polyethylene pipeline (MDPE). AG&P Pratham has deployed various digital technologies in order to manage its existing and upcoming assets. Key among these include I-Reporting, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), mapping of assets on the geographic information system (GIS), and digital auditing.
Launched in October 2021 by AG&P Pratham, I-Reporting is an incident reporting technology adopted for asset observation. It has four key functions – tracking incidents, evaluating safety performance, identifying causes and trends of incidents, and keeping the management informed. I-Reporting was deployed as incident tracking through manual means is an impossible task. Furthermore, a system was needed for tracking the entire life cycle of projects. The three modules of I-Reporting include asset observation reporting, unsafe act and unsafe condition reporting, and incident/accident reporting.
Quality and construction management
Quality and construction management (QCM) was launched by AG&P Pratham in December 2021. It is an application that captures the entire pipeline construction process digitally, right from survey to testing and commissioning of the pipeline. It captures and measures every action performed during pipeline construction, steel and MDPE, geotags every asset and auto generates reports with information from the field. It helps view the progress of construction in real time from the back office and trace material usage, and ensures that all project documents are stacked at one place, making access easy.
Key modules of QCM include user management, store management, project management, vendor management, document management, global positioning system (GPS) integration, activity reports, material traceability, quality assurance and mobile data collection. It also has the time stamp feature, which depicts when the work was performed, the time taken to perform it and when it was completed. It enables the user to track all the history that is needed to manage assets, and report time and work accurately.
SCADA and GIS
The adoption of GIS in the CGD sector helps in managing transmission pipelines, storage facilities, CNG stations and distribution assets. GIS was adopted by AG&P Pratham in January 2022. Various assets of a CGD network such as CNG stations; steel and MDPE pipelines; industrial, residential and commercial connections; and PNG meters are mapped on GIS digitally. This can then be used to create digital land maps which help in mapping potential customer details and expanding the CGD network. GIS acts as a single-platform space that can be used for viewing entire CGD assets. It also enables data sharing within the organisation and among stakeholders, tracking of GA-wise asset and pipeline length; and helps trace networks to find the network integrity in GIS and generate reports of upstream and downstream pipes/fittings/customers. A key feature of GIS deployed in AG&P Pratham is the gas outage manager, which enables users to find isolation valves and affected customers during operations and maintenance as well as during unexpected outage.
SCADA is one of the most crucial operational technology solutions for a CGD network. The SCADA-Integrated Central Control Centre is envisaged to be the brain for AG&P Pratham’s CGD operation, handling, emergencies and disaster management. SCADA acts as a decision support system for the administration to respond to real-time events. It facilitates monitoring and control of all critical process parameters at liquified CNG and CNG stations. Further, the sectionalised values in PNG supply can be controlled from the central control room. Real-time monitoring and control allows reporting and analytics, and enables execution of alarms and trend analysis.
AG&P Pratham’s control centre acts as a nodal point of contact for remote operations and logistics management activities. The control room is always manned by competent manpower, trained for emergency handling and coordination in the field.
Logistics management system
The logistics management system (LMS) is an auto-scheduling tool that is used to plan movement of LNG tankers/CNG cascades from source to destination based on stock levels, transit time and consumption patterns. LMS is integrated with a vehicle tracking system to track vehicles’ estimated time of arrival, and SCADA to monitor real-time stock levels. The report generated by LMS helps in optimising the number of vehicles required. It has other features such as driver database, transporter and vehicle database, transport billing, and despatching delivery notes.
Artificial intelligence-based cameras are installed in all tankers and cascades to detect alerts. Vehicle tracking systems are also installed to detect continuous driving, real-time location, hard acceleration and braking, and drivers’ duty hours. The systems are so designed that they provide real-time alerts and enable initiation of quick action. Prior to LMS, AG&P Pratham had deployed a journey management system, which helped in the creation and management of trips. However, owing to limitations of this system, LMS and other systems were adopted.
Driver behaviour monitoring system
The driver behaviour monitoring system (DBMS) works in sync with LMS. It was deployed alongside LMS in January 2022. Under this system, six cameras are fitted on all vehicles. With the help of technology, DBMS is able to provide speed alerts, hard acceleration or decceleration, mobile usage, driver verification and driver fatigue alerts (by tracking yawning or blinking). DBMS not only helps in vehicle tracking but also in violation tracking.
Assurance audit and inspection module
The assurance audit and inspection (AAI) module was deployed by AG&P Pratham in May 2022. It helps report, monitor and track all audits/visits within an organisation. It sends out automated email alerts and reminders for open action items, generates automated dashboards and audit reports, and captures photos that are time and date stamped. The AAI module helps track quality assurance site technical audits, asset integrity risk audits, pre-commissioning audits, regulatory audits and senior management site audits.
Building digital platforms for managing assets and day-to-day CGD operations poses various challenges. The lack of fit-for-purpose technology, non-availability of the right equipment and instruments, and and difficulties in choosing the right software for the work are some of the bottlenecks faced while deploying the technologies. Further, resistance towards adapting to new technologies and organising training for the team to learn new technologies and software poses problems.
Digital adoption for asset management is the future. It can help in increasing the productivity of assets, enable cost savings, provide access to real-time data, enhance process efficiency and improve scalability. Automated asset management can also ensure better management and analysis, and help increase the life of assets. w
Based on a presentation by Sureshrajadurai R., assistant general manager (GIS, technical services), AG&P Pratham, at a recent India Infrastructure conference