As technology continues to evolve, so does SoCalGas’ ability to apply new technology to advance its mission to build the cleanest, safest, and most innovative energy infrastructure company in America. Highlighted in this year’s Corporate Sustainability Report, one of the technologies successfully being deployed involves utilizing optical cables that can detect real-time underground changes in temperature, movement, and vibration. To study the potential application of this technology, SoCalGas launched the first fiber optic testing facility in the United States in Pico Rivera in 2017 and has used the program to demonstrate how around-the-clock-monitoring can allow for early leak detection caused by unauthorized construction work as well as other shifts in the landscape.
“The ability to anticipate and guard against unknown hazards is foundational to driving resilient operations and this monitoring technology highlights the newest advancements in pipeline safety,” said Gina Orozco, Vice President, Gas Engineering and System Integrity at SoCalGas. “While these safety enhancements have not been mandated by the state, our implementation of this cutting-edge safety technology not only benefits our employees and contractors, it also allows for proactive responses in the communities we serve.”
The Optical Pipeline Safety Monitoring System (OPM) sends pulses of light the thickness of a human hair through glass that can be measured inside the optical cable. When installed along a pipeline, the technology can detect vibrations, stress, or abnormal changes in temperature to within 20 feet of where a problem may be developing. The information is sent through the optical cable to a monitoring station within seconds, where operators interpret the signal changes to determine whether the source of potential intrusions is from heavy equipment operations, unexpected earth movement, or other potential impacts like structural stress from broken water mains.
In one monitoring instance, the optical technology was able to detect and provide advanced notice of potential intrusions on a pipeline trench under a creek bed due to heavy rainfall. After multiple rounds of storms, the technology allowed crews to detect erosion several days in advance and create proactive mitigation plans that would not have been possible without the early warning. Currently, the Optical Pipeline Monitoring System is actively installed on 8 miles of pipeline in SoCalGas territory and 43 miles of pipeline in San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) territory, with plans to expand installation to applicable new and replacement pipeline segments 12 inches and greater in diameter and at least one mile long.
This exciting new OPM technology is just one part of SoCalGas’ Control Center Modernization (CCM) program, a key component of its “Evolving Our Infrastructure” efforts that allow the company to better manage its infrastructure. CCM is also constructing a state-of-the-art gas control and emergency management center and deploying innovative technologies across our pipeline system.
SoCalGas is a leader in sustainability, having been among the first and largest natural gas utilities in the United States to announce its aim to have net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. The company was awarded the top “Business Transformation Award” at Reuters Events’ 2022 Responsible Business Awards for having established truly transformative sustainability priorities with the potential to create impact at scale in the energy sector and beyond.
For more information about SoCalGas’ efforts to achieve world class safety, visit https://www.socalgas.com/sustainability/aspire2045.