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The global market for natural gas continues to grow in complexity and competitiveness. In this Emerson Automation Experts podcast edition, Martha Rendon joins me to discuss the role automation plays in driving greater operational efficiencies across the natural gas transportation and distribution supply chain.
Give the podcast a listen and visit the SCADA System for Energy and Transportation section on Emerson.com for technologies and solutions to better manage the evolving energy mix more safely, efficiently, and securely.
Jim: Hi everyone. I’m Jim Cahill, and welcome to another Emerson Automation Experts podcast. Natural gas markets have gone global over the last several years. I’m joined today by Martha Rendon to discuss the challenges and solutions in natural gas, transportation, and distribution to address these changes and enable companies in the industry to operate more efficiently and sustainably. Welcome, Martha.
Martha: Hi, Jim. Glad to be here.
Jim: Well, it’s great having you here. I guess let’s begin by asking you to share your background and path to your current role here at Emerson with our listeners.
Martha: Sure. Okay. Well, I got my computer science degree a while back, and after that, I got my PMP certification. I project management professional certified, and I have been with Emerson working with Gas Management Solutions for 15 years now. It feels really like it was yesterday. And my role is a senior product manager and subject manager expert in commercial gas business and transportation process.
Jim: Wow. It sounds like, yeah, we’re all having a lot of fun around here with all the years we’ve been around. So let’s dive into it. How would you describe the commercial gas business and transportation process and what does that involve?
Martha: Well, the commercial gas business involves the production, exploration, extraction, processing, transportation, storage, and distribution of natural gas to various customers. The process begins with the search of natural gas deposits, followed by extraction using drilling techniques, and the gas is then processed to remove impurities, transport to processing facilities and storage or distribution centers, and finally delivered to customers through a network of pipelines, that is the commercial gas business. The commercial gas transportation process is something that is regulated by government agencies and companies must adhere to strict safety and environmental standards. The end goal is to provide customers with a reliable, safe, and cost-effective supply of natural gas.
Jim: Wow, that sounds pretty wide encompassing there. What is included in the gas pipeline business cycle spectrum?
Martha: The gas pipeline business cycle involves a series of interrelated activities that help ensure the smooth operation of the pipeline and transportation of gas. These activities include nomination management, confirmation, scheduling, allocation, balancing calculations, invoicing, and reconciliations with physical product. All these activities are subject to terms, conditions, and contractual obligations set forth by the transportation company and its shippers, and they help ensure that the pipeline operates safely and efficiently while allowing for maximum business acumen.
Jim: Well, that’s great background and got us all level set on everything. So what are customers’ primary concerns regarding the pipeline transportation business cycle?
Martha: Yes, customers of pipeline transportation and as well distribution and shippers’ companies have several concerns that are important to them. This includes safety, reliability, cost, capacity, schedule, environmental impact, and regulatory compliance. So first, when we talk about safety, ensuring the safety of people and the environment is a major concern as well as the availability of gas delivery. The cost of transportation is a significant concern as it can impact overall business costs and profitability. So customers also want to be assured that there is enough pipeline capacity to meet their needs and the pipeline schedules will be of obeyed to, and the environmental impact of pipeline transportation is increasingly important and customers want to ensure that their activities are sustainable and environmentally responsible. So finally, an important topic is cybersecurity and regulatory compliance, as noncompliance can result in significant penalties and damage to a company’s reputation.
Jim: Well, given all these concerns, how does automation, integration, and optimization benefit customers that are operating these natural gas systems?
Martha: One, the use of automation, integration and optimization in the natural gas systems can bring significant benefits to pipeline transportation companies and shippers. And the benefits include increased efficiency, improved safety, better utilization, enhanced decision-making, increased reliability, and better monitoring, and control. Automation can help streamline processes and reduce the risk of human error, while integration and optimization algorithms can provide better insights into asset utilization and support data-driven decision-making. So also automated systems can improve their reliability of natural gas systems and provide real-time monitoring and control leading to improve overall management and performance.
Our approach to automation, integration, and optimization focuses on increased connectivity and flexibility. We utilize the gas software solutions to automate the process, to integrate data in real-time, and improve the pipeline transportation business cycle. Our integrated solution, which includes our modern SCADA platform results in improved safety, network security, capacity optimization, and better management of pipeline operation. And this approach provides visibility into the pipeline activities and inventories which is allowing companies to better meet the customer needs. So our goal is to help gas shippers and private companies operate in safely and efficiently while accurately accounting and invoicing for that. Those are the most important things when we see automation, integration and optimization benefits for customers.
Jim: That’s a broad range of things that we can do to help ’em with those challenges. What software solutions does Emerson have available to support the commercial gas business for pipeline transportation, distribution, and shippers’ companies? And do these solutions also align with other pipeline modeling, simulation, and operational management solutions?
Martha: Well, yes. What we offer is a system-based approach that affords the necessary flexibility and agility to help customers stay ahead of changing dynamics in an ever-changing gas system and pipeline asset management environment. So we have different solutions. One of those is PipelineTransporter, PipelineTransporter developed by Emerson is a logistics and commercial management system for pipelines and local distribution companies. A transactional management tool. PipelineTransporter was designed to administer gas transportation contracts by handling nominations, generating schedules, balancing accounts, creating invoices, and more. The other product that we have, the other so far is TransactionManager. That is another gas transactional management solution that is available for shippers and pipeline operators in regulator or merchant markets worldwide.
We have as well, GasloadForecaster. GasloadForecaster uses historical data properties that can be analyzed with resolve used to predict the future market and gas network behavior. This is a system thinking and machine learning approach showing signs of growing prevalence in gas pipeline sector. And the software can be delivered as a cloud-based subscription, and provides short-term hourly, daily logs and results. Future gas load predictions can be made by a variety of sources for maximum reliability and accuracy. And these solutions are aligned with other pipeline modeling, simulation, and operational management solutions as well, like PipelineManager and PipelineStudio on any SCADA solution.
Jim: Well, that does sound like a broad range of software solutions across really the whole industry there. How do these software tools all relate to automating processes in commercial gas structures and transportation cycles?
Martha: Yes. With PipelineTransporter and TransactionManager, there are software designed to manage the commercial operation of pipelines by providing better transaction visibility, streamline the ability to meet legal, commercial, and operational objectives. The software allows for management of different aspects of the pipeline business, including data sets, business transactions, balancing rules, tariff, and more. So with the reliable source data certifications and allocations are tied to a SCADA and gas measurement system, and they bring the generation of invoices and make it easier for pipeline operators to manage the third-party access to us globally, users have access to real-time data with the solutions related to receive and delivery points that is volumes more allowing them to make informed decisions based on the information provided.
So when we see how this can be integrated, GasloadForecaster can be integrated with PipelineTransporter or Transaction Manager, and these three solutions are fully compatible with PipelineManager. That is our online pipeline simulation engine for operations management and leak and its protection. PipelineTransporter is the software that also integrates with PipelineStudio. PipelineStudio is a hydraulic simulation tool for safe, steady state and analysis of flow in pipelines. The integration of these systems ensures efficient and effective use of pipeline capacity and prevents operational violations, optimizing the pipeline transportation process.
Jim: Well. How is Emerson software helping gas shippers and pipeline companies improve their operations? And can the software be used in multiple SCADA platforms?
Martha: Our approach to automation, integration, and optimization is based on increased connectivity and agility. Our solutions which include link detection, predictive modeling, flow condition validation, capacity and nomination validations. All of these optimize under one business umbrella. So the use of a fully integrated solution results in improved safety, level security, optimization of capacity, imbalance management, hydraulic validations. This aligns with private modeling, simulation and operational management needs. So our solutions help the shippers and pipeline companies increase the disability into activities and inventories, connect with customers’ requirements, and efficiently, and accurately account for a wider value of growth. The system-based approach provides the necessary flexibility and agility to respond to changing gas systems and pipeline asset management environments. And regarding utilize question, of course, definitely our software can be integrated with any SCADA platform.
Jim: Okay. Now, I’ve asked you a bunch of questions around our software and systems solutions across the different segments of the industries. Let’s get more global here. What are the major themes in the global gas network industry and which ones are customers most concerned about today?
Martha: One of the topics is ensuring the safety and security of gas pipeline levels is of utmost importance globally. With emergence of new markets and an increase in the cyber-attacks, there is a need for updated regulations and standards, the level, the playing field. To meet these requirements and mitigate the risk of cyber-attacks, gas shippers and pipeline companies are turning to advanced security solutions that provide the real-time monitoring I was mentioning before, intrusion detections and response capabilities. These solutions also often employee encryption, access control, and firewalls to ensure and secure scientific data and protect against unauthorized access. So effective change management practices also play a critical role in reducing the risk of cyber-attacks by ensuring that security protocols are regularly updated and that any change are truly tested and documented.
Additionally, organizations can benefit from regular security audits, treat assessment and penetration testing to identify and remediate the potential risk factors. So by taking a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity and working closely with the trust partners, I see that gas shippers and pipeline companies can better protect their assets, minimize the risk of downtime, ensure reliable, secure delivery of gas to the customers. So that’s an important chain in the global gas and global industry now.
Jim: Yeah, cybersecurity is a critical concern in most industries, but I think particularly across, you know, the global gas industry given how spread out everything and the transportation part of it and everything else. So thanks for sharing that with our listeners. What’s the significance of natural gas in the global energy mix?
Martha: Yes. the natural gas transportation industry involves a series of regulated processes that are driven by the movement of natural gas from gathering systems to underground storage sites, to local distribution centers. These processes include commercial activities and I mentioned before nominations, scheduling, invoicing, balancing that must be reconciling with physical flows. So the rise of natural gas is a cleaner alternative to coal, has driven innovation in the commercial gas structures and the increased presence of newer products like hydrogen has put more pressure on the midstream energy sector.
Companies in this sector are working to optimize the capacity, storage, shipping practices, operational capabilities, and to ensure the success of their operations, shippers and pipeline operators are focused on safety, reliability security, public image. They are also seeing visibility into future supply and demand and overall performance to optimize their planning and execution of gas.
Jim: Okay. And I guess now turning a little bit more to sustainability, what role do you see the natural gas industry playing in the transition to a low-carbon economy? And how will Emerson’s software facilitate management of a wider mix of energy products?
Martha: The natural gas industry may play a role in facilitating the transition to a low-carbon economy by supporting the development of carbonization and storage CCOs as technologies, hydrogen and CCOs initiatives, and to reduce the carbon emissions from fossil fuels make them more environmentally friendly with these initiatives. Natural gas source hydrogen combined with carbon capture provides a massive opportunity to accelerate the hydrogen adoption around the world in the near and meantime, while ultimately transitioning to an increasing percentage of renewable or zero emission over the long term. So Emerson definitely is ready to provide and facilitate with our software in the different business and value chains for hydrogen. So we have different solutions that can be provided in order to facilitate this important transition to a low-carbon economy.
Jim: Well, yeah, the role of hydrogen growing and the role that natural gas plays in there with the carbon capture part of it, that’s a really good point there. So let’s start winding things down. I’ve had you in the hot seat, hitting you with all these questions. Do you have any final perspectives to share with our listeners about automating processes and commercial gas structures and transportation?
Martha: Yes. In summary, I can say that the natural gas pipeline industry is facing increased competition and regulation leading companies to adopt advanced software solutions to improve efficiency, safety, security, and regulatory compliance that is an important part. Emerson so far helps companies to have the real-time visibility into operations and inventory. We facilitate the execution of pipeline movements and better manage the imbalance and waste, this will result in increased efficiencies in the transmission and distribution of natural gas through the integration of the commercial and operational activities with overall business process. So that is the important perspective that we like to share about the automating process in the commercial gas pipeline and transportation.
Jim: Well, those are some great perspectives. And I guess finally, where can our listeners go to learn more about some of these solutions we’ve discussed?
Martha: Yes, you can go on the Emerson website, emerson.com/scadaforenergy. You’ll find interesting information there.
Jim: Well, that’s great. And in the transcript, I’ll add a hyperlink to that URL. Well, Martha, I wanna thank you so much for sharing your expertise with our listeners today.
Martha: Thank you. Thank you for the time and opportunity.
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