In September 2018, gas utilities were stunned by the Merrimack Valley gas explosions, which caused millions, if not billions, of dollars in property damage, personal injury, and infrastructure damage. The investigation found that the event was caused by excessive pressure in the pipeline that was undetected.  As a result, utilities are seeking ways to monitor pressure throughout their distribution system while legislatures are working to place regulations around pipeline integrity and over-pressure protection. 

Until recently, gas pressure monitoring has been limited to major points along the distribution network – utilities weren’t able to monitor pressure at individual homes. But with the Sonix IQ, they can now track pressure at the meter level. 

Sonix IQ is the only ultrasonic residential meter available that offers a pressure sensor built into the meter at the inlet, providing unprecedented gas industry safety features. Understanding pressure at the meter provides insight into your system and can alert you to potentially harmful high and low pressure situations.  Coupled with remote disconnect and auto shut-off capabilities, Sonix IQ pressure sensing can prevent catastrophes without dispatching staff to the site.

Sonix IQ is the only ultrasonic residential meter available that offers a pressure sensor built into the meter at the inlet, providing unprecedented gas industry safety features. Understanding pressure at the meter provides insight into your system and can alert you to potentially harmful high and low pressure situations.  Coupled with remote disconnect and auto shut-off capabilities, Sonix IQ pressure sensing can prevent catastrophes without dispatching staff to the site.

Within a gas utility distribution network, actual operating pressures vary greatly, ranging anywhere from 200 to 0.25 psi. Pressure levels are based on numerous factors including location, pipe wall thickness, pressure testing, etc. Any significant changes in pressure levels can be proof of a larger issue, which is why pressure should be closely monitored at critical points throughout the distribution system. 

With the Sonix IQ, utilities have more points for capturing pressure data to identify these issues. In a recent field test, a Sonix IQ meter reported low pressure. Further investigation revealed there was trapped gas pressure in the line caused by a service line valve that had been left in the off position.  The valve had slight pressure bleed through that was causing the pressure variations on the inlet side.  The inlet variations also affected outlet side, as registered by the meter.  The utility dispatched a tech to open the valve and used the Sonix IQ data to determine that the issue had been resolved.

In addition to flagging issues real-time, utilities’ Data Science teams can use the pressure data captured by the Sonix IQ to provide crucial insight for risk assessments and predictive maintenance.  Utilities can understand the variation of pressure in their system and set corresponding thresholds based on seasonal trends.  Knowing normal variation in the system versus abnormal variation can help utilities identify faulty regulators or other service line issues prior to failure.

Many gas utilities are migrating to AMI networks and devices to monitor pressure at critical points throughout their distribution network, from district regulator stations down to the meter.  These devices can send pressure data over the AMI network, which can be stored in a database and put into a standard report for Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure (MAOP) audits and regulatory documentation.  In addition to capturing data, the AMI assets can transmit over-pressure alarms whenever a threshold has been exceeded.  In the case of Sonix IQ, the meter not only alerts the utility when pressure thresholds have been reached, but it can also shut-off gas flow automatically.

As a key asset in any gas utility’s AMI network, Sonix IQ offers more than just meter reading – it enables utilities to move beyond consumption and billing and focus on safety of employees and customers. It allows them to gather data and control critical assets, preparing them for future over-pressure protection regulations.