Intelligent Utility Installation Report Offers New Methodology for Asset Data Capture
October 18, 2012
Des Plaines, IL
Utilities need to know what asset data to collect and how to best manage it. A new report published by Operations Technology Development (OTD)—a partnership of natural gas distribution companies formed to develop, test, and implement new technologies—outlines outcomes from its Intelligent Utility Installation (IUI) project, which includes recommendations about which asset data should be collected and an innovative methodology for capturing and documenting it.
The IUI project, driven largely by the industry’s need for asset tracking and traceability capabilities for compliance with Distribution Integrity Management (DIM) regulations and risk analysis, provides a methodology for field data capture during installations of new—or modifications to existing—natural gas infrastructure. Gas Technology Institute (GTI), a leading research and development (R&D) organization serving energy and environmental markets, performed the research.
Over the past year, GTI researchers have been working to develop a logical data model and high-level processes for information gathering. “We knew that the data capture process being established would be used for all future field work,” says Monica Ferrer, principal scientist at GTI, who served as project manager, "so it needed to be capable of providing data to support risk identification, trend analysis, and threat mitigation. We focused on capturing the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) F2897-11 tracking and traceability standards and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements."
Sponsoring utilities have responded positively to the IUI project, and are finding value in the approach. "The IUI project will enable operators to capture more information about our assets accurately and in a timely manner," notes Mark Kinzle, manager, gas systems support for Peoples Gas, a project sponsor. "These benefits will be felt in many areas of our company, such as DIMP, locating, engineering, GIS, and back-office support."
The IUI final report includes recommendations for technologies to be used during field collection to automate data capture, while reducing or eliminating the opportunity for human error. In May 2012, a demonstration of the IUI data collection process was conducted at the Atmos Energy Training Center in Texas, using barcoding technology integrated with high-accuracy GPS and a handheld field data collection device. "The demo, which showcased the integration of various technologies in a simple-to-use tool, exceeded my expectations," adds Kinzle. "We believe this project will greatly enhance the as-builting and recordkeeping processes of any company." OTD sponsors are now moving ahead with plans to implement IUI processes and technologies.
"This project is meant to be the beginning of a new process and philosophy about identifying technology gaps and determining what needs to be developed," says James Marean, GTI senior program manager, who served as principal investigator for this project. "This is just one piece of the puzzle, and other capabilities are needed to create a comprehensive solution."
GTI is coordinating a series of interrelated R&D initiatives to provide easy accessibility to high-quality data. The IUI logical model will serve as a foundation for an ongoing related project, which is establishing guidelines for data collection requirements. Other OTD-funded projects will provide utilities with hardware and software tools for collecting the required information. For new system installations, GTI is developing industry guidelines to implement the ASTM F2897-11 standard, a 16-digit identification code for tracking and tracing assets, and tools to capture information through barcode scanning.
For existing systems, GTI experts are exploring ways to collect data during other operations such as cathodic protection and leak surveys. Additional efforts include using recent advances in information technology to develop tools and best work practices for extending data capture, providing real-time information access to users in the field and back-office, and integrating high-accuracy GPS data receivers with mobile platform-based Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
About Operations Technology Development (OTD)
OTD was established in 2003 as an Illinois not-for-profit company to facilitate voluntarily funded, collaborative research. OTD’s mission is to identify, select, fund, and oversee research projects resulting in innovative solutions and the improved safety, reliability, operational efficiency, and sustainability of gas systems.
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About Gas Technology Institute (GTI)
GTI is a leading research, development and training organization that has been addressing the nation’s energy and environmental challenges by developing technology-based solutions for consumers, industry, and government for more than 75 years.