GAIL India Ltd, the country's biggest gas transporter, has deployed drones on pilot basis on its main trunk pipeline as it uses technology to secure its vast network, its director (pipelines) Ashutosh Karnatak said.
In the aftermath of the June 2014 accident at its pipeline in Andhra Pradesh that killed at least 18 people, the state-owned firm has taken a number of initiatives to raise safety standards including replacing old pipelines and using advanced technology.
Based on the results, the company may decide to buy or hire more drones to monitor its 15,000-km pipeline network, he said.
The drones will be used to patrol the pipeline to detect physical abnormal activity like encroachment or intrusion on the pipeline.
For using drones, GAIL had to secure permissions from multiple agencies. Previously, the government had given permission to Indian Railways and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for similar purposes.
As line patrolling is extremely difficult for pipeline sections passing through forests, rivers, environmentally sensitive areas and other inaccessible areas, GAIL would use drones for aerial surveillance of 200 kilometres for the Hazira-Vijaipur-Jagdishpur/Dahej-Vijaipur pipelines.
GAIL has also started using satellite surveillance as well as PIDS or pipeline intrusion detection system to detect any breaches, he said adding the company has replaced old pipelines in the KG and Cauvery basin and Gujarat at a cost of about Rs 1,500 crore to prevent any accident.
A government probe into the June 2014 accident had highlighted safety lapses at the firm and prompted sector regulator Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) to slap a penalty.
In the pilot, a drone will fly over the pipeline, capturing pictures and other data using smart technology. The data will be analysed to detect any potential hazard.
GAIL, at present, uses foot patrolling to spot encroachments and seeks local administration's help in getting them cleared.
Drones will however not be able to detect any leakage, for which the company will continue to reply on sensors and patrolling, he said.
Pipeline securities is a major issue across the world and with recent progress in satellite sensing technology, availability of new high resolution satellites and object oriented image analysis, there is a possibility to introduce space technology for pipeline monitoring applications.
GAIL did pilot project on satellite monitoring on its 610 km Dahej-Vijaipur pipeline.