Municipalities Modernize Natural Gas Usage with Cloud-based SCADA Solutions

In 1816, the streets of Baltimore, Maryland became the first to glow with the light of gas-powered lamps. From that moment, natural gas became one of the top energy workhorses in the United States.

For 200 years, Americans have relied on natural gas to heat their homes and cook their food, to power appliances such as water heaters and oven ranges, and to power integral industries, such as manufacturing and processing plants, and boilers to generate electricity. According to the American Public Gas Association (APGA), natural gas currently supplies more than one-half of the energy consumed by residential and commercial customers, and about 41 percent of the energy used by U.S. industry.

Most Americans probably never think of how natural gas is handled, monitored, or made efficient. There are more than 900 U.S. public gas systems that manage the 2.4 million miles of underground pipeline delivery system. Municipalities across the country are incorporating the latest technology to help ensure that natural gas delivery, production, and processing is efficient, smart, and most importantly, safe.

A SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system is a category of software application program for process control, which is the gathering of data in real time from remote locations in order to control equipment and conditions. In the past, SCADA monitoring required personnel to physically check the dials or meters, manually record the data, and transfer that data via telephone or typed records, which would have to be copied and mailed to share outside of the utility office. The lengthy process wasted not only time and money, but also risked accuracy and emergency response.

Today, natural gas companies, especially those within smaller municipalities, can implement a cloud-based SCADA system to digitally monitor the sensors and regulate pressure appropriately. Because the pressure level is relative to the outside temperature, utility workers or operators can adjust the regulation to varying temps with immediate access.

Furthermore, a cloud-based SCADA includes alarms, which can be set for low or high pressure, and most importantly, detect any leakage. Alarms also detect if Captan has been added and if the amount is sufficient to comply with legal regulations. Captan is a chemical agent added to natural gas to give it that distinct “egg” smell. If Captan is not present or levels are off, it can mean a natural gas leak is undetected. And that spells trouble. A quality cloud-based SCADA solution includes a direct connection to the odor injector equipment and pressure valve, with immediate reports available online.

Another bonus to a cloud-based SCADA system for natural gas companies is that the exact reporting element can help predict purchase costs. Typically, smaller municipalities buy gas from the pipeline and sell it to the houses, and they pay the gas pipeline for the gas they use. A cloud-based SCADA system provides an accurate data reporting system, which can show the trends and likeliness of cost fluctuations for specific temperatures. It’s a smarter purchase for a more efficient return.

Utilizing a cloud-based SCADA not only helps save time, money, and manpower, but it also helps regulate the finite resources we have in natural gas. By implementing a high quality, reliable, and proven cloud-based SCADA system, natural gas providers—big and small—can trust it won’t be lights out.