PG&E Deploys Innovative Gas Pipeline Inspection Robots in 2014

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) helped to advance natural gas industry safety by testing and deploying more than 30 new, innovative gas safety tools in 2014.

Thanks in large part to PG&E’s Gas Operations Research and Development team, the California utility is working with other forward-thinking companies, research institutions and government agencies to create the next generation of safety tools for natural gas pipeline operators which also supports a variety of high-tech jobs within the sector.

The new technologies are helping transform utilities into more predictive and proactive operators and aid in providing detailed inspections, often in less time with greater accuracy and precision than traditional methods. Examples of these technologies being deployed by the company include:

  • 3D Toolbox: This year, PG&E deployed a specialized tool that captures a three-dimensional image of a pipe that identifies and measures dents, cracks or corrosion on the outer surface so that it can be analyzed and repaired before it becomes a potential safety issue.
  • Mars Rover Technology for Gas-Leak Detection: In collaboration with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, PG&E adapted and tested laser-based technology—originally designed to find methane on Mars—to locate natural gas leaks on Earth more effectively than traditional methods.
  • Inspection Robots: PG&E tested and implemented a variety of gas pipeline inspection robots in 2014. In early 2014, PG&E launched a customized “smart-pig” that travels inside transmission pipelines and captures detailed information about the inside of the pipe without any interruption to gas service. Later in the year, the company tested a miniature robot to inspect the outer portion of a pipe inserted in pipes casings without digging the ground above.

“Working alongside some of the best scientific minds in the world, we’re developing new predictive capabilities about natural gas operations with the intelligence gathered by these tools,” said Sumeet Singh, vice president gas operations asset and risk management. “We’ve been able to make advancements in advancing natural gas pipeline safety through innovation and we are committed to not only continuing to enhance the safety of our system, but also sharing such solutions across the industry.”


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