Boundless Automation will Drive the Future of Pipeline Operations

by , | Jul 9, 2024 | Oil & Gas, Sustainable Energy | 0 comments

As the world seeks alternative fuel sources to increase sustainability, many companies are pursuing hydrogen as a potential candidate. The capabilities of hydrogen continue to show more and more promise, and it is becoming increasingly important to consider how it will be transported. North America alone already has hundreds of thousands of miles of pipeline dedicated to natural gas. While some of that will be used to transport blends of hydrogen and natural gas, it will likely not be enough. Other pipelines will need to be converted to carry pure hydrogen, and new pipelines will also need to be built for the same purpose.

However, as Michael Ray and Phani Kanakamedala explore in their recent article in H2Tech magazine, such expansion, repurposing, and new construction will not be simple. Hydrogen has more corrosive properties than natural gas, making it more complex to transport safely and efficiently, and more difficult to contain. Most modern pipeline operations are not prepared for this complexity. Michael and Phani explain,

“Today, many North American companies are working with a wide range of disparate solutions that are linked via complex custom programming, or with solutions not linked and requiring manual transmission and translation of data. But the time and effort spent maintaining these complex architectures, or chasing data between siloed solutions, makes it difficult, if not impossible, to compete in an ever-expanding global marketplace.”

These companies need their systems to work together—seamlessly integrated to help operators safely deliver and track hydrogen from one end of the value chain to the other. Forward-thinking companies are accomplishing this by applying a Boundless Automation™ vision to their automation investments. By leveraging solutions that are seamlessly integrated from end-to-end, they can better monitor and improve pipeline integrity while simultaneously mitigating risk.

So many tools

Engineers and operators rely on a wide range of tools to safely build, operate, and maintain their pipelines. They use pipeline design software to evaluate existing and new pipelines to ensure they meet safety specifications. They also rely on geographic information management software to identify accessibility and proximity to population centers. Risk assessment models are another critical tool, using simulation to identify how efficiently and safely new operations will perform.

Today, many companies have multiple, discrete applications for each of these needs, often from a wide array of suppliers. That was a reasonable solution when operations were simpler, but as companies strive to prove out more complex hydrogen operations, they will need tools that are integrated by design. Emerson’s end-to-end solutions for pipeline design and management provide comprehensive, seamlessly integrated software to create a cohesive risk management environment. Phani and Michael elaborate,

“When pipeline design solutions seamlessly integrate, they help the company build toward a Boundless Automation vision for operation. Through that vision, built-for-purpose automation freely and easily moves data among systems to deliver more holistic operations across the enterprise. Instead of looking at each element of pipeline operation as a separate piece, operations can bring data together into high-level tools to predict and test operational changes, like the ones necessary to transition toward safer, more efficient hydrogen transport.”

Truly end-to-end

The benefits to seamlessly integrated solutions based in a Boundless Automation vision go beyond engineering and operation. Emerson also has simulation and commercial tools for pipelines, and they can also be seamlessly integrated into existing solutions. When companies integrate their commercial and planning operations into their operational and risk assessment tools, they can more easily operate the entire value chain at peak efficiency, scalability, sustainability, and safety.

Michael and Phani go into more detail in the full article over at H2Tech, including sharing some practical examples. Be sure to head over there to check it out!


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