January 2023

Features

Supply Chain Solutions for Natural Gas Leak Detection

By Steven “Sevie” Karolewski, Vice President of Operations, Groebner 

(P&GJ) — Now more than ever, utilities, governments and pipeline companies are incentivized to secure their supplies of natural gas from production all the way to the meter. Leak detection and emissions reduction are critical components of an optimized natural gas distribution system.

Fortunately, there has never been a better time to solve these challenges with progress in pipeline materials and pressure regulators as well as leak detection devices and communication systems. 

All of these innovations can come together to reach peak performance in an industry, which is crucial to everything from home heating to fueling the economy. It’s just a matter of sourcing the right equipment from the supply chain. 

Detection Matters 

When it comes to pipeline management, a strong supply chain partner who provides equipment to detect, repair and prevent leaks is essential. Following are a few reasons why methane leaks are detrimental and should be reduced:  

Compliance – A methane emissions reduction program was part of the new policies introduced in the Inflation Reduction Act, resulting in hefty fines, which are set to increase every year through 2026, for methane gas emissions. 

Starting in 2024, gas utilities that exceed the established emissions standards will be fined $900 per ton, which will increase to $1,200 in 2025 and then up to $1,500 in 2026, and every year after.  

Environment – Natural gas systems are responsible for the release of 157.6 million metric tons of methane from 1990 to 2019. Methane has been associated with climate change, so it is important to reduce the likelihood and amount of any emissions to best protect the environment.  

Since natural gas burns cleaner than crude oil and coal, this is an opportunity to be leaders in the energy sector and show the world how natural gas can be safely produced and distributed.  

Economics – When natural gas escapes during the process of getting through the pipeline from the field to the point of delivery, we lose a valuable natural resource. Great strides have been made in the recapturing of natural gas, but it’s still best to treat this precious commodity as a finite resource for the pricing balance in the supply/demand equation. 

Supply Chain Solutions  

How can natural gas utilities leverage their supply chain partners to detect and minimize leaks and emissions and secure the transportation of this important and valuable commodity? Look for a supply chain partner who offers innovative solutions for utilities, governments and pipeline operators, including the following:   

Sensors – Sensors can help pipeline operators measure how much gas is passing through each transition point and can help monitor the flow of gas throughout the pipeline. If the flow gets blocked or leaks, it can be detected by comparing volumes before and after each step, and then repairs can begin. 

Sealing the leak – Once a leak is detected, then the team can pinpoint and quantify the exact location. Equipment such as methane gas detectors and gas leak survey tools can help identify the spot that needs to be sealed. The next step is to repair the leak by using solutions/products that are appropriate for sealing the specific type of leak. 

Maintain equipment – Part of being able to detect and stop leaks is having equipment that works well and has been properly maintained. Regularly scheduled tool inspection and maintenance should be a cornerstone of offered services of any supply chain partner.  

Training – All of these solutions are only as effective as the person implementing the technology and using the equipment. Therefore, it is imperative that supply chain partners include a training component. Courses such as operator qualification (OQ) programs, leak detection and locating programs and new product training will be important steppingstones for both new and seasoned employees. Pipeline operators and supply chain partners should look for equipment providers that also offer training.  

Applying for grants – As part of the Infrastructure Law that was put into effect in 2021, the U.S. government included a Natural Gas Distribution Infrastructure Safety and Modernization (NGDISM) grant program, which will help community and municipally owned utilities repair, rehabilitate or replace natural gas systems to bolster safety and modernize systems.  

New and upgraded pipelines will obviously help reduce emissions and will need support from the supply chain. As part of the application process, pipeline operators may need to detail equipment that will be used to modernize the system, and an innovative supply chain partner can help determine the best, most technologically advanced options and provide insights for the application. 

Employ a diverse team – Diversity in the workplace that includes leadership teams comprised of individuals of different genders, races, identities or socioeconomic backgrounds can lead to innovation and the creativity needed to problem solve and advance in competitive marketplaces. A supply chain partner that has a diverse team will be an asset when pipeline operators are looking for innovative solutions.  

Conclusion 

There are many solutions that the supply chain can provide to support natural gas companies and help reduce natural gas emissions. The natural gas sector  wants to minimize leaks because leaks can result in operational waste and the loss of resources.  

Tapping strong supply chain partners will guide the natural gas sector to implement solutions now to not only secure pipelines through the delivery process, but to get ahead of any potential fines that will go into effect soon.  

Working together can facilitate opportunities to learn from one another and make the natural gas industry safer and more profitable.


Author: Steven Karolewski began his Groebner career in 2010 as the director of Operations. After four years, he was promoted to vice president of Operations. Karolewski manages the inside sales team and all other operational teams, including inventory, warehouse and marketing. Prior to Groebner, Karolewski held various sales manager and operations director positions. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 1997. 

Related Articles

Comments

{{ error }}
{{ comment.comment.Name }} • {{ comment.timeAgo }}
{{ comment.comment.Text }}