Do Your Systems Have What It Takes for Gas Network Modernization?

Blog Post created by tcoolidge-esristaff Employee on Apr 12, 2019


Historically, gas network practices assumed a small number of supply points typically at or towards the periphery of the network, a limited amount of up-to-the-moment data about network status, manual operation of control equipment in the field, and a relatively static pattern of operations.  Those assumptions no longer hold true.  The exciting notion of network modernization helps address these challenges.


Network Modernization Hinges on Better:

  •       Design and Planning Tools
  •       Devices and Integrated Systems
  •       Institutional Support
  •       Security and Resilience
  •       Sensing and Measurement
  •       System Operations, Gas Pressure and Flow, and Control


While these six technical areas of needed improvement result from the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Grid Modernization Initiative that looked at what the electric distribution industry needed to do for grid modernization, they generally have applicability to what the gas utility industry needs to do for network modernization.  Consider these six areas when evaluating your own stakeholder priorities for network modernization.  This blog will look briefly at each of the six areas and what they mean for utility information systems.


Design and Planning Tools

Many design and planning tools trace their legacy to old computing architectures and capabilities, and typically use very simplified models of the gas network, often with artificial barriers between different sub-networks, like transmission and distribution, or pressure levels.  These tools simply are not up to the task of managing the complexity of a modern network.  New design and planning tools that work on a more detailed model of the entire integrated gas network are required. 


Devices and Integrated Systems

Many new devices are necessary to achieve the aggressive goals for the network.  To integrate such devices on a large scale, they must be able to communicate with each other and the digital systems that control them.  Such management is built on a detailed representation of all pipe network components and the natural world around them that can be used for various purposes – like visualization, analysis, and prediction.  A complete new model, adequate to support engineering and operational systems is essential to achieving network modernization. 


Institutional Support

On top of the tough technical requirements, there are straightforward needs for better stakeholder communication and collaboration.   Stakeholders need clear, concise, complete information to make the best decisions.  They also need enablement for new and better ways of working together toward their common goals.  Maps and up-to-date visualization techniques can help communicate the important ideas quickly and provide an intuitive framework for collaboration. 


Security and Resilience

To ensure the security and resilience of a modern network, utilities must reduce vulnerability and improved impact assessments of potential threat scenarios.  The goal is to more effectively anticipate and prevent events and prepare for and rapidly respond to those events that cannot be prevented.  This Achieving this goal requires analysis based on overlaying detailed network information with other data such as threat locations, asset condition ratings, and weather forecasts.  DIMP, TIMP, and other risk analysis activities address security and resilience, but can be improved.  But more is needed.  For instance, smaller pigs make possible in-line inspection of more mains and outage restoration systems can improve management of planned and unplanned outages. 


Sensing and Measurement

Knowing at all times what is going on within and around a pipe network is essential to those responsible for making sure that it always performs as expected.  Improved and expanded sensor networks and better measurement capability can increase the quantity and quality of data available to those making decisions and managing pipe network activities.  Achieving this requires information systems capable of handling greater data volumes and velocity.  And, the data must be made readily available to the modern workforce on the devices they use every day. 


System Operations, Gas Pressure and Flow, and Control

Many existing systems for gas pressure-flow management, operation, and control do not fully leverage today’s astonishing computing capabilities.  These weary systems are unduly conservative and based on older and more generalized system modeling concepts.  These obsolete modeling concepts breakdown when applied to the industry’s emerging challenges.  Utilities need a new information framework for handling the complexities of a modern network. 



To meet tomorrow’s challenges, utilities need to maintain and deliver greatly expanded network information to all systems and stakeholders.  To achieve this, information systems will require higher performance, more elaborate detail, and greater scalability.


Each utility’s prioritized network modernization roadmap will include the systems to be implemented along the way.  Each system has unique information requirements, but few account for the big picture and the entire set of network data uses.


An all-inclusive detailed representation of network assets can support the disparate systems with the network information they need.  A single source of information can reduce data-related costs while improving consistency, reliability, and safety.


Esri designed its new network modeling framework as an innovative foundation for utility geographic information system (GIS) solutions to support a modern network and its many systems.  The new framework models the entire gas network and underpins network modernization activities.  This capability is built on the out-of-the-box strengths of the core ArcGIS platform.  This means even the most sophisticated network model can be analyzed and presented anywhere in beautiful, color-coded maps that immediately communicate the important ideas.


Esri helps utilities address many of the information needs essential for network modernization.