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China’s expanding pipeline networks

World Coal,

Telvent recently announced its selection by PetroChina Company Limited (PetroChina), one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, to provide monitoring and control infrastructure for several of its new hydrocarbon pipelines in China, including four liquids pipelines and PetroChina’s new multi-track natural gas pipeline connecting Changqing and Hohhot. The new projects optimise the company’s pipeline operations with advanced information management and automated control solutions, addressing real-time production needs and supply chain management functions such as planning, measurement, inventory, sales and billing. The projects are the latest in a 20 year relationship between the two companies and will be integrated into PetroChina’s national pipeline control system.

China’s expanding energy reach

These new announcements are representative of the overall expansion of China’s energy industry and a national strategy to secure global energy sources in order to meet the rapid growth of the country’s current and projected energy demand. China’s growing population of 1.3 billion, which consumes over 9000 bpd fuel, and robust urban and industrial development have PetroChina and its parent corporation, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), developing new finds domestically and exploring new energy sources all around the world. 

Pipeline development in particular is strong, being driven both by the increase in oil demand for consumer and industrial use, as well as a shift towards the use of natural gas instead of coal for power generation in efforts to meet environmental protection goals. PetroChina alone has a pipeline network of more than 56 000 km around the world, with thousands more in development each year for new finds in China and pipelines to carry hydrocarbons from Russia, Kazakhstan and other neighbouring countries.

Complications of expanding pipeline networks
The expansion of pipeline networks, mirrored in other countries exploring new sources of energy (Canadian oilsands, Australian coal seam gas, US natural gas fracking), has companies such as PetroChina facing situations of fragmented and dispersed control, with no clear picture of the overall pipeline network. This makes it difficult to ensure the enterprise is optimised for security and efficiency and creates challenges within operational systems such as maximising throughput, scheduling product delivery and network maintenance.

More centralised control

It was challenges such as these that prompted PetroChina to work with Telvent in creating a national control centre in Beijing to manage all the individual pipelines from one distinct nerve centre. Central control centres cater to real-time production needs that allow easier control of multiple systems and reduce overall costs, creating integrated, automated control systems that streamline operational management capacities.

A single main control centre gives pipeline operators the ability to focus on optimising resources by reducing the number of fully functional control centres. This also allows companies to enhance their security by concentrating staff and providing integrated training to address issues more efficiently. Most importantly, by integrating each pipeline into a central control system, operators receive a holistic picture of the network and are better able to implement business optimisation strategies such as flow optimisation, product delivery schedules and more efficient field maintenance.

In the past, the ability to reliably control pipelines remotely was limited by the quality of communications networks. Now, advances in the quality and reliability of high-speed communications, with most pipeline projects including fibre optic installations, have given companies the ability to increase their remote monitoring capabilities without sacrificing the response time of local control.

This is an industry trend not only in China but increasingly being employed globally. Currently, Telvent has projects similar to PetroChina in Mexico and Brazil, creating national pipeline network control centres for major liquids and gas transport and distribution companies in those countries. As companies face tighter margins and increasing pressure to optimise efficiency and security, expect to see more and more pipeline operations moving to centralised control. 

Written by Stuart Barvir, Vice President, Business Development, Telvent.

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