How to Optimize your Gas Leak Detection Process
As modern utility providers work to update their aging infrastructures while still ensuring service continuity, the importance of predictive and investigative activities is amplified. Consider that many utilities are fighting on two fronts: they are focused on improving management of both physical assets and the software supporting those assets, a task often blended with tools like the Internet of Things (i.e., connected assets).
For example, a natural gas provider seeks more effective technologies to gauge the precise location and volume of leaks, as well as more effective ways to replace or patch leaking lengths of pipe — particularly tools and processes that can reduce field technician trips to the site. Moreover, the regulations guiding most utilities typically stipulate that operations and assets must be inspected periodically.
A connected system empowers utilities to provide evidence of predictive, investigative, and maintenance activities: showing where leak maintenance has been required, how issues were investigated, when maintenance was/is scheduled, and the results of any action taken. This proactive approach benefits end user satisfaction, public safety, and more efficient field service operation.
To fulfill their duty to customers and protect their communities, utilities must adopt a comprehensive and proactive approach to emergency mitigation. The services they provide—gas, water, heat, and power—are the lifeblood of countless communities. Without dependable access to these services, our society is simply unable to function.
The equation for mitigation is clear: prepare better and respond better.
Let’s explore some of the strategies, technologies, and best practices that empower utilities to navigate the challenges of an ever-changing world, ensuring that they’re ready to keep the lights on and their communities safe.
Why are Technology Upgrades Necessary?
Within the guardrails of applicable regulations, utility providers have two key priorities when upgrading infrastructure. First is safety: when a disaster happens, you immediately explore investments that will prevent another catastrophe. Second is cost-saving because, if you execute a predictive analysis, investigating the asset network and upgrading the infrastructure, you reduce a lot to service or emergency calls, and minimize the associated money loss.
For example, identifying new materials to patch pipes, instead of replacing each section of pipe, is an initiative directly influenced by a desire for cost savings. Currently, the entirety of a leaky pipe must be replaced. But utilities are experimenting with materials that provide reliable patching options, significantly reducing the time and cost compared to replacing a full length of pipe.
Software, meanwhile, often fulfills both cost-savings and safety goals. If the utility’s main software is speaking to all of its connected assets, it will receive regular status-of-operation updates, as well as alarms if some performance element falls outside of designated parameters. This can be accomplished without customer action and without sending a technician to the site.
Still, many technologies are used to discover gas leaks, including aerial observation from helicopters (e.g., for large facilities or pipes) and cars equipped with “sniffers” capable of detecting leaks near buried assets. These approaches and many others, however, can lead to false readings and must later be confirmed by a technician on-site, using handheld technology to pinpoint the size/volume of the leak.
Which Technologies Might be Helpful?
Utilities are best served by completing a thorough review of potential partners that examines capability, resources, and cultural “fit.” OverIT implements tools that help collect data directly from field assets. We also try to facilitate validation of that data, using streaming systems to keep technicians and operators connected in the field. That connectivity improves work quality and drastically reduces on-site working time by maintaining availability of decision-makers, technicians, client representatives, and more.
To help clients determine and thus maximize return on investment (ROI), our software details all costs for in-the-field activities. If you don’t send a technician to perform field maintenance, you can quantify the cost-savings (e.g., fuel, technician hours, vehicle upkeep) related to that activity.
Up-to-the-minute data drives effective maintenance triage, and problems corrected remotely free up technicians to perform higher-value activities. This is critical to maintaining both service continuity and competitive service rates.
Understanding + Context = Continuous Improvement
OverIT strives not just to provide software, but to understand specific client issues and to reveal those problems’ root causes. A company that does not understand your utility’s challenges and needs intimately, that does not grasp how time and money are being lost, is just a software company. Modern utilities are better served by a software provider with the resources and expertise to act simultaneously as a consultant, supporting their upgrade efforts.
Like other providers, we show new clients the solutions we have created that work for other clients. But we also aspire to speak each client’s individual language, internalizing their struggles and building trust through candor and humility. For more information, contact the author and visit us at https://www.overit.ai.
Riccardo Tozzi is a solution architecture manager at OverIT. Riccardo has held several roles during his 12 years with the company, mostly serving gas customers. He relies on a fantastic team of experienced, high-quality programmers, and top technical analysts, as well as functional analysts, PMs, and valuable managers to handle customer needs.