News Article

PG&E Testing New Monitoring Technology for Gas Pipelines
Date: Jul 14, 2014
Source: Company Data ( click here to go to the source)

Featured firm in this article: Acellent Technologies Inc of Sunnyvale, CA

SAN RAMON -- At its Applied Technology Services facilities, PG&E recently coordinated a demonstration of new technology the company has been testing for its natural gas pipeline system. Developed by Silicon Valley-based Acellent Technologies Inc., the Real-time Active Pipeline Integrity Detection (RAPID) sensor system was designed to remotely monitor the structural health of pipelines by identifying potential concerns such as corrosion, cracks or other damage.

Tiny sensors embedded between strips of flexible film, which are wrapped around the outside of steel pipes, could one day provide PG&E with real-time, detailed information about the condition of its pipelines, especially in locations that are particularly susceptible to damage. By sending and receiving ultrasonic waves through the thickness of the pipeline steel to a data acquisition box installed on the pipe, PG&E's gas operations' engineers will get an advance warning when the condition of a pipe changes.

A data acquisition box sits atop a test pipe wrapped with sensors and covered with protective fiberglass (yellow bands) as part of new technology to remotely monitor pipeline health.

"The RAPID technology could one day transmit an alert in real-time to our engineers when it detects damage to a pipeline", said François Rongere, PG&E's research & development and innovation manager in gas operations. "This assures a faster response and repair time."

At the demonstration in San Ramon, two simulated corrosion cells of varying sizes and depths were installed on a test pipe using a plasma cutter. During the demonstration, Acellent's RAPID system located, measured and identified the depth of the corrosion cells. As a next step, PG&E will verify the accuracy of RAPID's findings using a laser scanner.

"We have been working on developing this technology for more than five years and we're happy to see it being tested for use by PG&E," said Mark Pappakostas, marketing director at Acellent Technologies Inc.

Representatives of the California Energy Commission, which is funding the research and development of RAPID technology through the Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program, also attended the demonstration.

"The RAPID system developed by Acellent is a prime example of pulling from other industries — such as aerospace and automotive — to demonstrate technologies California's pipeline operators, like PG&E, can use to improve the safety of our pipeline network," said Johann Karkheck, project manager at the Energy Commission. "These technologies may otherwise go unnoticed which is the exact reason the PIER program was created."

Further testing is planned for this technology to eventually make it available for the many pipeline configurations and is expected to be finalized by the end of 2015.

Rongere says that "innovation is critical to improving gas safety, reliability and affordability." The RAPID system is one of many cutting-edge technologies that PG&E is exploring for its natural gas system. Recent stories about how the company is testing new technologies to improve the safety and reliability of its gas system can be found here and here.