MORGANTOWN, WV - Every day in the United States an
average of 55 billion cubic feet of natural gas moves through more than1.2
million miles of underground pipe and thousands of compressor stations
to virtually every home and nearly 5 million businesses across the country.
For the most part, this flow of natural gas is uneventful - in fact,
America's pipeline system is unequaled in its efficiency and safety. But
the current gas infrastructure is aging and leaks or breakages can occur.
Moreover, as the Nation's consumption of natural gas increases, at least
300,000 miles of new distribution and transmission pipelines will have
to be built by 2015.
In May, the Department of Energy announced its first set of joint government-industry
projects to develop high-tech ways to improve the safety and performance
of the Nation's gas delivery system. Now, the department plans to add
another 10 cost-shared projects that will develop cutting edge automation,
new sensors and leak detectors, corrosion monitors, and other advanced
devices that can improve the way natural gas is transported through tomorrow's
The new projects were proposed by:
Kansas State University, Manhattan KS, which will develop
a "Virtual Pipeline System Testbed," a computer model that,
for the first time, will allow operators to identify the most reliable
and lowest cost path to deliver natural gas to the consumer by integrating
both the operation of compressor stations and different pressures,
flow rates and other variables in the pipeline itself.
Point of contact: Kirby S. Chapman 785/532-2319
Gas Technology Institute, Des Plaines, IL, (2 projects):
One project will design and test a robotic system that can seal joints
in cast-iron pipes. About 47,000 miles of cast-iron distribution pipes,
or "mains," are now used to bring natural gas into homes
Point of Contact: Kiran Kothari, 847/768-0893
The second project will develop an obstacle-detection sensor that
can be installed near the drill bit in horizontal directional drilling
system. These systems, which bore into the earth, then turn horizontally
to create tunnels for underground pipes, are being used increasingly
as an alternative to trenching. The new sensing system will signal
the presence of obstacles so they can be avoided during the drilling
Point of Contact: Christopher J. Ziolkowski, 847/768-0549
CyTerra Corporation, Waltham, MA, which will adapt a plastic
detection technology originally developed for the U.S. Army to locate
deeper non-metallic pipes and other buried materials before they are
inadvertently damaged by construction or other excavation activities.
Point of Contact: Glenn Anderson, 781/622-1360
New York Gas Group (NYGAS), New York, NY, which will develop
an advanced test kit that operators can use in the field to detect
the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in natural gas distribution
Point of Contact: Ms. Daphne D'Zurko, 212/354-4790 x214
Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, TX, which will
develop a device based on patented magnetostrictive sensor technology
that sends low-frequency guided waves down a pipe to detect the minute
changes in pipewall thickness that can signal the beginning of corrosion.
Point of Contact: Mr. Aaron Taylor, 210/522-6094
Geophysical Survey Systems, Inc., North Salem, NH, which proposes
to build a low-cost, easy-to-use ground penetrating radar system for
locating metallic and non-metallic pipes and detecting gas leaks.
Point of Contact: Alan E. Schutz, 603/893-1109
Automatika, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA, which will partner with
New York Gas and its associated utilities to develop a wireless network
of small pipeline sensors that operators can use to monitor the real-time
operations of active gas distribution mains, the smaller pipes that
deliver gas to residences and businesses.
Point of Contact: Dr. Hagen Schempf, 412/968-1022 x11
West Virginia University Research Corporation, Morgantown,
WV, which proposes a system to detect the unique sound wave generated
when a pipeline break releases a large discharge of gas after being
damaged by landslides, excavations, or other disturbances. The system
will be designed to monitor the background noise inside the pipe and
pick up any sudden new frequencies that might signal a sudden pipeline
Point of Contact: John L. Loth, 304/293-4111 x2343
Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, which proposes
to replace many of the manual operations in managing the flow of natural
gas through pipelines and compressors with cutting-edge automated
systems. The university will develop modeling tools and automated
feedback controls for large-scale pipeline networks.
Point of Contact: Dr. Michael A. Henson, 225/388-3690