Maintaining the pipelines that transport oil or gas from the extraction point to processing and delivery points can be a significant challenge. The environment, regulations, and land access are some of the most critical issues facing the Canadian pipeline industry today.

Managing and Sharing Pipeline Information

Population expansion is increasingly encroaching on rights-of-way in areas that used to be very remote and virtually uninhabited. The Canadian Energy Pipelines Association estimates that “[…] approximately half of Canada’s safety incidents are related to third-party damage, and while the nation has dial-before-you-dig laws in place, the enforcement is relatively weak. […] It’s a very different risk-management issue involving human behaviour as opposed to pipeline integrity issues, which are highly technical. We need to use different tools to attack each one well.” (CEPA: addressing Canada’s pipeline issues: http://pipelinesinternational.com/news/cepa_addressing_canadas_pipeline_issues/040199/).

In the mid-1990s, technical challenges with stress-corrosion cracking was a significant issue which drove the industry to collaborate and work on factors such as common standards and best practices. Planning and collaboration are helping to uncover ingenious ways to address some of the challenges.

Managing impacts to the environment is one an area where collaboration yields good results. In one project, where a major pipeline needed to be laid through a protected national park in the Rockies, the pipeline company worked with local environmental groups to address not just right-of-way issues, but also problems with the broader ecosystem. During construction, the pipeline company was able to make new pathways so that animals could safely move and breed. This is just one example that shows how effective collaboration can achieve a successful project while solving attendant environmental challenges.

The Canadian Energy Pipelines Association (CEPA) was established in 1993 to facilitate industry collaboration on issues such as safety, pipeline integrity, best practices, and the long-term stability and competitiveness of the transmission pipeline sector. CEPA represents 11 large transmission pipeline companies as well as other technical and associate members interested in pipeline integrity and environment issues.

The Dangers of Poor Information Sharing

In September 9, 2010, 38 homes in the residential neighborhood of San Bruno were destroyed after a gas line exploded. The explosion killed 8 people, and injured 66 more (PG&E Charged by U.S. Over Fatal 2010 Pipeline Explosion: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-01/pg-e-charged-by-u-s-over-fatal-2010-pipeline-explosion.html).

The U.S. Department of Justice filed charges of willfully violating the Pipeline Safety Act, and of obstructing an investigation. As part of the obstruction of justice charge, it was alleged that the company was not using the correct guidelines to prioritize risk and properly assess pipelines running through urban and residential areas. The charges included violations of the pipeline safety act such as not keeping accurate and complete records, failing to identify threats to pipelines, and failing to take action to address identified hazards. The cause of the explosion was traced back to deficient welds in the pipeline when it was laid in 1956, but the other factors contributed to making the situation worse.

Using a Registry for Information Management

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a Pipeline Accident Report for the Pacific Gas and Electric Company Natural Gas Transmission Pipeline Rupture and Fire. In support of the new recommendations is the need to maintain information that is traceable, verifiable, and complete, and which can be shared with emergency responders and with the jurisdictions within which pipelines are laid.

Registries provide a new kind of information management solution that can be used as a standalone application or as a way to extend the functionality and capabilities of existing systems. The underlying data model for a registry can be designed to include all the types of objects necessary to provide a complete information picture to store and manage data that is traceable and verifiable.

A Standard Model for Pipeline Data – PODS

The Pipeline Open Data Standard (PODS) is a data architecture for pipelines that is comprehensive and robust to meet modern information and technology requirements (http://www.pods.org/). The development of PODS leverages the knowledge and experience of multiple pipeline operating companies and service providers who have been working collaboratively since 1998 to develop and improve this standard.

Maintaining a single pipeline data repository in a system such as a registry helps to improve the quality, quantity and timeliness of information, and reduces the risk, time, and cost of developing and implementing a GIS for pipeline data. The shared repository becomes a reliable source with consistent definitions that every company can use.

A common data model eliminates the tendency of both vendors and companies to develop internal proprietary data models. This can reduce or even eliminate errors in data transfer between multiple applications or databases. It can also mean that pipeline databases do not need to be migrated when changing or upgrading software applications, and makes interfacing new applications with existing systems much easier.

The PODS Association was created to develop and support open data storage and interchange standards to meet the specific data management needs of pipeline companies. The PODS Association follows three guiding principles. Improve Interoperability, Member Knowledge Sharing, and Growth.

How Galdos Can Help

Galdos INdicio™ Registry Platform is a new kind of information management solution, designed to provide all the base registry functionality on top of which to build a centralized repository for PODS data (including definitions, code lists, and common data elements), or registries for managing and sharing data about pipelines or regulatory information such as inspection reports, etc. INdicio’s master data management and data sharing capabilities can be used to support existing systems, or can deliver a customized solution that is fully interoperable with existing systems.

Contact Galdos Systems for more information.

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