Automating Processes in Commercial Gas and Transportation Cycles

by | Jan 26, 2023 | Oil & Gas

Martha Rendon

Martha Rendon

Sr. Product Manager, Gas Management Solutions

An article, titled A Case for Automation: Automating Processes in Commercial Gas and Transportation Cycles, was published in the January 2023 edition of World Pipelines magazine. This recap of the article looks more closely at leveraging the flexibility and agility of modern automation solutions to achieve risk management, regulatory compliance, and business administration objectives in an evolving energy industry.

Increasingly, views on this evolution are being filtered through a lens that reflects a more diverse, regionalized, regulated and competitive natural gas marketplace. Transmission and distribution companies have been stepping onto a pathway to decarbonization that has been fueled by demands for greater regional energy independence and more reliable access to natural gas products. The rising potential of hydrogen and carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) programs are contributing heavily to these evolving energy dynamics.

Emerson recognizes the need from a global commercial gas business and transportation cycle perspective. We understand regulatory compliance, risk management and cybersecurity have each been identified as major considerations during the planning process. We know a well-defined process and careful management of each piece is critical in the pursuit of long-term operational viability and corporate sustainability.

Ideally, companies need to move towards tighter integration of processes and systems. One major step in this direction is the implementation of a highly flexible, integrated software-driven solution that can support all commercial gas business activities. At Emerson, our agnostic gas software suite is built on agility and flexibility—PipelineTransporter, TransactionManager and GasLoadForecaster are examples of automated solutions being implemented and integrated by users to overcome the challenges.

Reducing Business Cycle Complexities

The gas pipeline business cycle spectrum encompasses many activities from nomination management to confirmation, scheduling, allocation, balancing calculations, invoicing, as well as reconciliations with physical product flows. Subject to terms, conditions, contractual obligations and more.

Requirements are evolving for commercial gas shippers and pipeline transportation companies to align risk management, business administration and operational objectives, day-to-day. We’re asked regularly how manual, time-consuming processes can be eliminated, how the logistics can be optimized for improved results.

Our customers are being impacted by the evolving energy paradigm. They want to know more about how advanced software is being leveraged throughout the pipeline transportation business cycle.

What solutions are available to better inform and facilitate accurate gas load forecasts and improve customer service, at the same time aligning with pipeline modeling, simulation, and operational management solutions?

More and more often, shippers and operators are found in search of transformational solutions in response to an evolving gas pipeline product mix. What we offer is a system-based approach that affords the necessary flexibility and agility to help customers stay ahead of changing dynamics, and an ever-changing gas system and pipeline asset management environment.

Take for example PipelineTransporter™, developed by Emerson as a logistics and commercial management system for pipelines and LDCs. A transactional management tool, PipelineTransporter was designed to administer gas transportation contracts by handling nominations, generating schedules, balancing accounts, creating invoices, and more.

TransactionManager™, another gas transactional management solution, is available for shippers and pipeline operators in regulated or merchant markets worldwide.

Protecting Assets from Cyber Attacks

Globally, safety and reliable gas network security are being etched as major themes as gas shippers and pipeline operators flush out potential for new plays in established markets and up-and-coming regions.

Oil and gas majors have a tremendous stake in mitigating risks. This includes offsetting the threat of ransomware and other cyberattacks that could jeopardize the operation of critical infrastructure.

In the US, authorities directed pipeline owners and operators about their OT and IT system infrastructure, including requirements for a cybersecurity contingency and recovery plan, and cybersecurity architecture design review. More recent guidance drew attention to a cybersecurity requirement notification calling for network segmentation policies and controls, ensuring the ability to operate safely in the event of an IT compromise.

New standards and regulations in different parts of the world are helping level the global playing field while a more diversified, competitive energy marketplace begins to emerge. In addition, effective change management practices have been directly correlated with overcoming risks at an operational level—to achieve organizational objectives.

Nigeria provides a recent example of a country setting up frameworks for new gas pipeline transportation systems standards and regulations. General doctrines have been established in reference to gas transmission activities, influenced by general open access principles such as capacity certification, general terms, and publicity.

The new code set forth a series of rules guiding the use of the gas transportation system—a contractual framework between the network operator and shippers to provide open and competitive access to the gas transportation infrastructure.

In 2013, as another example, Mexico amended its constitution allowing for private investment in both the electric and petroleum sectors. This resulted in new laws that promoted an aggressive program for natural gas transmission infrastructure and opening of commercialization activities to private companies. It led to a profound and relatively fast opening of Mexico’s oil, gas, and electricity sectors.

Capitalizing on a Single, Integrated System

How does this all relate to automating processes in commercial gas structures and transportation cycles?

Depending on market requirements and regulations, PipelineTransporter or TransactionManager is fine tuned to manage the transport, sales, and purchase contracts, at the same time providing better transaction visibility via an off-the-shelf software solution.

Data sets, business transactions, balancing rules, tariff structures, informational postings, communication protocols, user experiences, blockchain conventions, and more, are each viewable through PipelineTransporter or TransactionManager software. The ability to overcome limitations by meeting legal, commercial, and operational objectives is streamlined.

Both software tools have been designed to manage the commercial business aspects of the pipeline—shoring up the ability to operate safely and efficiently while allowing for the utmost business acumen—anywhere.

Certifications and allocations are tied to SCADA or an alternative gas measurement system, meaning that with reliable source data all invoices can be generated and transferred to the transporter’s accounting system. Nominations, matching and confirmations, certifications, allocation, balancing tools and invoicing are combined into a single operational system.

Users access and act upon the real-time data that is provided in relation to receipt and delivery points, penalties, tariffs, volumes, and more. All transportation contracts negotiated between the transportation company and its shippers to move gas can be readily identified. This makes it easier for pipeline operators to manage third-party access to gas throughout the gas business cycle, worldwide.

All integration points—covered.

Predicting the Future with Modeling

Historical data and flow patterns can be analyzed with results used to predict future market and gas network behavior. A systems-thinking and machine-learning approach is showing signs of growing prevalence in the gas pipeline sector, with software such as Emerson’s GasLoadForecaster™ engineered to perform predictive management and modeling—a gas measurement model for official volume and standard composition.

Shippers, pipeline operators and LDCs are looking for optimized throughput and heightened efficiency. GasLoadForecaster has been proven to significantly minimize forecast calculation times. Neural network modeling and regression analysis help mitigate supply risk and drive more operational efficiency.

The software can be delivered as a cloud-based subscription and provides short-term hourly and daily load shapes and results. Future gas load predictions can be made by leveraging a variety of data sources, for maximum reliability and accuracy. This software additionally eliminates requirements for any manual inputs when entering nominations.

GasLoadForecaster, which can be integrated with PipelineTransporter or TransactionManager, is also 100% compatible with PipelineManager™—an advanced online pipeline simulation engine for pipeline operations, management, and leak and theft protection. PipelineManager is based on real-time simulation of the flow in the pipeline with a rigorous transient computer model driven by real-time data retrieved from the pipeline.

PipelineTransporter additionally integrates with PipelineStudio™—the latter is a state-of-the-art hydraulic simulation tool that quickly and accurately performs steady state and transient analysis of single-phase fluid flow in pipeline networks.

Online or offline hydraulic validations and authorizations in the scheduling process are achieved via integration with PipelineManager (for simulation in real time) and PipelineStudio (for simulation offline).

When combined, the system ensures optimal capacity is being used and that no operational violations are occurring.

Increasing Safety and Security with Optimization

The American Pipeline Institute (API) has suggested that optimization in natural gas systems is achievable due to its highly resilient nature, geographic diversity, and high level of flexibility and elasticity. The systems are generally characterized by multiple fail-safes, redundancies, and backups.

Emerson’s approach to automation, integration and optimization is based on a similar elevated level of connectivity and agility. We have witnessed what automating processes and the real-time integration of gas software solutions can accomplish.

Commonly, the solutions being integrated are part of a suite that encompasses leak detection and predictive modeling, the validation of flow condition, and other capacity and nomination validation activities—everything optimized under one business umbrella.

A fully integrated solution, particularly one that includes a modern, ISO 27001-compliant SCADA platform such as OSI’s monarch OT system (now part of the AspenTech solutions portfolio) tends to result in increased safety and better network security, based on the user’s ability to optimize capacity, improve imbalance management, and effectively manage hydraulic validations. This aligns with needs for pipeline modeling, simulation, and operational management—for capacity and nomination validations, as well as “look-ahead” results.

At Emerson, we are helping gas shippers and pipeline companies gain greater visibility into activity and inventories, connecting them more closely with their customers’ requirements. Our models have been vetted with effective outcomes in validation scenarios on a cyclical basis.

Our view is that a systems-based approach affords the necessary flexibility and agility to respond to an ever-changing gas systems and pipeline asset management environment. With the right partner and a fully integrated solution, customers can keep gas pipeline networks safe and secure while efficiently and accurately accounting and invoicing for a wider variety of products.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.

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