In December, Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) broke ground on a first-of-its kind, fiber optic cable installation that will allow the company to monitor the condition of its high-pressure transmission pipelines in real-time.
The fiber optic technology is being installed along a new, seven-mile section of natural gas pipeline in Bakersfield, California and will serve as an early warning system to detect unauthorized construction work that could damage the pipeline and changes in pressure in the line that could indicate a leak. Photos of the technology from today’s installation are available here.
“SoCalGas is committed to modernizing 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.”
The technology uses fiber 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 fiber 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 fiber optic system can pinpoint within 20 feet where a potential problem may be developing.
“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.”
When a threat is detected, information is sent along the fiber 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 country to use the technology in natural gas transmission and high-pressure pipeline system operations. The company plans to install fiber optic cable along all new and replacement pipeline segments 12 in. and greater in diameter and one-mile long.
Incorporating fiber optics into its transmission pipeline and distribution systems is part of SoCalGas’ commitment to upgrading and modernizing its more than 101,000 miles of natural gas pipelines in order to provide customers with the safe, reliable, and affordable energy they deserve.