This past December, the President signed the PIPES Act of 2020, which included mandates for PHMSA to increase specific regulations governing natural gas distribution systems, as well as increased monitoring requirements for operators. While the Act does not include requirements for pressure monitoring at the residence (or meter) level, Section 3.ii. does include requirements for monitoring pressure at the district, or regulator, level. This section mandates that, ”the gas pressure of a low-pressure distribution system is monitored, particularly at or near the location of critical pressure-control equipment.”

The change from “reporting” to “monitoring” in the new federal regulation is subtle but very significant for utilities.

The change from “reporting” to “monitoring” in the new federal regulation is subtle but very significant for utilities. Reporting is typically done passively with a chart recorder—or even manual reads that are recorded—and reviewed after the fact. Monitoring, however, requires that a device not only be able to measure and record the information, but also actively communicate it (and, ideally, send alarms). This way, changes in pressure can be managed proactively rather than long after they occur.

So, what does this mean for gas utilities? If a utility is currently relying on reactive reporting methods, it’s time to investigate regulator-level solutions that can monitor and communicate pressure.

The pressure’s on

The fact is, proactive pressure monitoring is not just about mandated compliance. It’s about making timely and critical decisions to ensure the safety of communities and citizens. At the district level, the ideal solution is a battery-powered sensor interface that can connect to a variety of applications in all locations—even in areas where no power or land-based communications is available.

Receiving real-time readings to accurately track pressure highs and lows means the system can be balanced without deploying field teams. Remote pressure monitoring also allows utilities to reallocate up to one-third of their O&M budget currently being spent on manual tracking methods. But realizing the potential of this new level of monitoring, data and control requires the reliability of a utility-grade, robust two-way communication network.

Pressure monitoring is no longer a “nice-to-have” feature for gas utilities – it’s a must. The new PIPES Act necessitates that utilities find the right technology solution to extend monitoring reach for real-time pressure data, improving the safety and efficiency of gas operations.

Looking for more information on the PIPES Act? Click here to read the American Gas Association summary.