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SoCalGas develops fibre optic pipe monitoring tech

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World Pipelines,

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) announced yesterday that it has broken ground on a first-of-its kind, fibre optic cable installation that will allow the company to monitor the condition of its high-pressure transmission pipelines in real time.

SoCalGas develops fibre optic pipe monitoring tech

The fibre optic technology is being installed along a new, 7 mile section of natural gas pipeline in Bakersfield, California and will serve as an early warning system to detect unauthorised construction work that could damage the pipeline and changes in pressure in the line that could indicate a leak.

"SoCalGas is committed to modernising our infrastructure to enhance safety for our customers and reduce our carbon footprint," said Deanna Haines, Director of Gas Engineering for SoCalGas. "This technology provides our engineers with a critical early warning system that can prevent damage to our lines and help us mitigate leaks more quickly." 

"Having real time information on the status of high-pressure pipelines is critical in the early detection of a potential problem," said Brian Marshall, Kern County Fire Chief. "Firefighters will be able to respond quickly to an emergency and work with SoCal Gas to stop the problem from escalating."

The technology uses fibre optic cables that run along a pipeline and that transmit data across long distances. The system operates on the principle that light signals vary when a fibre optic cable is exposed to vibration, stress, or abnormal changes in temperature – all indicators of a possible natural gas leak or an impact to a natural gas line. The fibre optic system can pinpoint within 20 ft where a potential problem may be developing.

When a threat is detected, information is sent along the fibre cable to a remote monitoring station within seconds, where operators interpret signal changes to determine the source of potential intrusions including, heavy equipment operation, unexpected earth movement, or other physical impacts like structural stress from broken water mains. 

Access to continuous, real time measurements and area-specific data can give SoCalGas crews and first responders more time to plan, allocate resources, and take effective actions to mitigate potential leaks and damage to pipelines.

SoCalGas is one of the first natural gas utilities in the US to use the technology in natural gas transmission and high-pressure pipeline system operations. The company plans to install fibre optic cable along all new and replacement pipeline segments 12 in. and greater in diameter and 1 mile long. 

Incorporating fibre optics into its transmission pipeline and distribution systems is part of SoCalGas' commitment to upgrading and modernising its more than 101 000 miles of natural gas pipelines in order to provide customers with the safe, reliable, and affordable energy they deserve. 

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