Con Edison’s future plans for advanced gas metering infrastructure

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US utility Con Edison will enhance its advanced metering infrastructure system for gas customers by deploying new technologies and adopting new use cases, Richard Trieste, the company’s manager of the Research, Development, and Demonstration division has said.

Trieste was speaking in a session hosted by Itron and ComEd during the Itron Inspire Digital Event, which started on 4 October and runs through 6 October.

He said Con Edison plans to install smart gas detectors for outside monitoring of natural gas leakages.

The gas detectors will be powered by smart electric meter pans to monitor the outside atmosphere in the vicinity of outdoor gas meter sets, he said.

“What is going to be critical here is the detection capability of the units. They will detect 10% of the lower explosive limit, which is not a lot of gas from a percentage perspective of hazards,” said Trieste.

However, he said sustainability targets and climate mitigation strategies that are being adopted by utilities and governments are driving the utility to adopt the technology. Con Edison has filed a patent with regulators in October 2019 seeking approval to deploy the solution.

This follows Con Edison deploying 9,000 gas detectors under a pilot in 2018 and 2019 for indoor gas leak monitoring, some 12,000 units in Westchester and East Harlem in 2020, and deploying them at full-scale between 2020 and 2025. The project is also part of of the utility’s digital and metering transformation programme.

Like the smart electric meters, the gas detectors enable Con Edison to accurately bill customers and reduce non-revenue energy. The utility says the detectors are helping in the operation and maintenance of the distribution network and in improving customer safety and services.

He said the gas detectors help us to “detect leaks, protecting consumer buildings from accumulating gas.” The units send Con Edison data every 30 seconds.

Of the 60,000 gas detectors Con Edison has installed for customers so far, Trieste, said 600 have sent alarms of leaks within consumer premises to the utility’s emergency response center. “These devices have been so reliable, of the alarms sent we only have 4 false alarms. Of the 600, 108 or 20% came from an outside source of gas into the buildings,” he said.

Commenting on the benefits of the gas detectors, Trieste, said: “Unlike the nose, the detectors do not sleep, they are sniffing at all times hence they help us ensure consumer safety 24/7.

“One day the project will help us save a life and we will be able to document that,” he said.

He said Con Edison also has plans to install cathodic protection test stations for remote monitoring of gas distribution pipes and evaluation of the impact on the grid or leaks on the soil. The technology is expected to provide the energy firm with real-time granular data on operations which can be used to identify problems and enact quick responses.

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The solution will enable “equipment identification and evaluation. Rather than sending a crew, the device will send us readings in real-time thereby help us reduce operational costs and carbon footprint,” said Trieste.

Other advanced metering infrastructure projects which Con Edison is currently deploying include the installation of AMI valve box intrusion detection devices that the utility seeks to use to protect its distribution network and valves from intrusion and tampering in dense areas.

Con Edison is also finalizing its smart electricity meter rollout to a ‘few’ customers that remain without new meters after rollout has been completed in the majority of the utility’s service territories.

The utility has 3.6 million electric customers and 1.2 million gas consumers.

Find out more about the AMI advances natural gas distribution safety and security in New York city session at the Itron Inspire website.