Egoli Gas saves 95% of personnel time and energy through automated network monitoring

POWER & GAS UTILITIES

Goals

  • Meet customer needs while looking after network safety
  • Reduce meter reading time and costs
  • Improve knowledge of imported and delivered gas as well as network status in real time

Challenges

  • How to implement GSM-based data acquisition technology at remote locations with power and security problems

Results

  • Considerable reduction in personnel time and travelling costs
  • Accurate monitoring of pressures to look after customer requirements and the network’s safety
  • Reduction in maintenance personnel and effort
  • Accurate reconciliation of imported and exported gas
  • Speedy response to faults/issues
  • Real-time knowledge of network health and status
  • The system will be expanded to detect leaks and illegal taps

“Thanks to Systems Anywhere’s ingenuity and Wonderware solutions, we are one of the best if not the best utility in Johannesburg. During the extensive load-shedding of 2015, a major bank customer thanked us for our reliability and swift response in meeting the requirements of their tri-generation plants – all due to our informed personnel and information suppliers.”

Emmanuel Matodzi, Projects and Planning Engineer, Egoli Gas

Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

With a “shop floor” covering the greater Johannesburg metropolitan area, Egoli Gas had an understandable problem reading their meters and getting a grip on the true status of their vast pipe network. Today, manual data collection is a thing of the past and Egoli Gas can do a better job of looking after its customers by meeting their needs in real time.

Background

Prior to the installation of this new system, Egoli Gas personnel would drive to 7200 gas meters in a 1800 km-long network covering a large portion of the greater Johannesburg metropolitan area, They would log consumption data for processing in Excel from which very basic reports were generated for management.

This entirely manual process was prone to human error, unsynchronised meter readings and further time delays in generating the reports. The result was an inefficient operation and delayed response to issues affecting gas delivery to Egoli Gas’ clients.

“As a utility company with many important customers, our challenges were numerous,” says Emmanuel Matodzi, Projects and Planning Engineer at Egoli Gas. “How do we read all the 7500 meters in our network or how do we ensure that none of the sectors in our network is being starved of gas or is experiencing low pressure – especially in times of sudden demand from our clients who use gas for power generation during power load shedding?”

But that’s only half the story. At any moment in time, Egoli Gas couldn’t readily reconcile the volume of gas they bought from SASOL with the amount supplied to their customers until the tedious and time-consuming process of manual data collection was completed – so reducing the time and cost of personnel travelling their vast network had to be addressed.

And the list goes on: How could Egoli Gas be proactive in pre-empting unwanted high pressures in their ageing network which isn’t only undesirable for the network but especially for their customers whose equipment may be designed to cope with 3 rather than 25 kPa? How can the company address the problem of detecting theft and leaks? Then there was the real need to know at all times how much gas capacity was in reserve as well as the health of the entire network.

This was all about bringing decades-old but vital energy technology into the 21st century with all its attendant problems and challenges. What’s more, whatever solution was chosen could not rely on human intervention and had to be entirely reliable since the profitability of Egoli Gas and the satisfaction of its customers depended on it.

Egoli Gas took a bold decision to address all these issues once and for all. Their goal was to develop a gas network monitoring solution using solar-powered GSM data acquisition technology and to log the data automatically in order to provide reports on gas distribution and consumption – all in real time while also addressing the issues of power availability at remote locations as well as that of vandal-proofing.

Implementation

Egoli Gas selected Wonderware-certified system integrator Systems Anywhere for the implementation of this landmark project who decided to build on Egoli Gas’ existing Wonderware-based industrial information infrastructure.

Systems Anywhere designed a cost-effective solar-powered, vandal-proof logging station (Smartoos) for use at all measuring nodes to log gas volume, pressure and temperature in order to determine the gas supply conditions at all these delivery points. Readings are transmitted via private APN every 2 minutes to the Cottesloe “Starfish” with a Port-Forwarding configuration.

“This alone resulted in huge savings in terms of personnel and travelling costs as well as time,” says Matodzi. “In fact, we estimate that time and cost savings to be about 95% with 100% improvement in the quality of data – not only in its accuracy but also in its near-real-time delivery. The system also provides every department with the information they need. For example, account managers now know precisely what their key accounts are doing and can advise them accordingly and our own accountants know precisely how much gas we’re importing and distributing.”

The first glimpse into what’s happening in Egoli Gas’ network is the overview of its 24 governor stations whose job it is to reduce mainline pressure to what consumers need – like a step-down transformer in an electrical network. This InTouch screen provides a concise view of current conditions and alarms. The elimination of all manual data collection lets Egoli Gas personnel concentrate on improving customer service through the early and rapid detection and identification of irregularities in the gas distribution network before they become a problem for end-users. This is especially applicable to those users who use gas for power generation.

“This information also allows us to look after our ageing pipe network to ensure that pressure doesn’t exceed 25 kPa but is maintained above 16 kPa on the high-pressure mains,” says Matodzi. “This level of data acquisition and analysis means that Egoli Gas personnel can focus their experience and expertise on real issues and on maintenance rather than data collection. “

About Egoli Gas (Pty) Ltd

Egoli Gas is a natural gas reticulator based in Johannesburg and servicing more than 7 500 domestic, central water heating, commercial and industrial businesses in the Johannesburg area. The company operates an 1800 km network dating back to the company’s origin in 1892.

The service offers environmentally-friendly, safe, reliable and energy-efficient natural gas.  The company’s commitment to their customers’ energy-efficient, low-carbon lifestyle ensures an uninterrupted flow of natural gas ready to use when it’s needed, safely.

Egoli Gas acquires natural gas from Sasol which is stored at a secure facility in Langlaagte where it is carefully monitored and controlled.

The gas is reticulated to Egoli Gas’ Cottesloe premises where it’s stored in low pressure holders before being reticulated to homes and businesses across the city.

For domestic use, Egoli Gas is located in many of the more established Johannesburg suburbs; however, the pipeline extends even further for its commercial and industrial customers.