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Posted on June 26, 2013

PG&E Strengthens Pipeline Safety with Cutting-Edge Inspection Technology

Building on its efforts to enhance pipeline safety throughout Northern and Central California, PG&E today (June 26) said it will add a new, customized in-line inspection device to its growing suite of technology used in the field.

Working from inside of natural gas pipelines, this cutting-edge “smart pig” provides a highly efficient and accurate way to determine the condition of PG&E’s natural gas transmission system — the arteries of the system that heats and powers customers’ homes and businesses.

Built by 3P Services, the custom “smart pig” is unique and unlike standard inspection tools, navigating tight bends and turns in pipelines ranging from 30 inches to 36 inches in diameter. Designed and produced especially for PG&E’s system, the “smart pig” will provide highly sophisticated data about the pipeline’s condition. The tool currently is in development at 3P Services in Lingen, Germany.

“Ensuring that our pipelines are in safe operating condition is our most important job. ‘Smart pig’ technology tremendously enhances our ability to perform routine inspection and maintenance system-wide faster, more efficiently and with greater confidence,” said Nick Stavropoulos, PG&E’s executive vice president of gas operations.

The flexible, multi-diameter “smart pig” travels through the pipeline, using a combination of sensor technologies to collect information that is then analyzed to assess the condition of the pipe. It can identify dents, corrosion and other defects that could compromise the safety of the pipeline. If any defects are found on a segment of pipe, PG&E will excavate to repair or replace the segments.

“Smart pigs” are just one of many tools PG&E is using to monitor for potential leaks and safeguard its natural gas system in Northern and Central California.

“Our work with PG&E is based on the solitary goal of strengthening PG&E’s overall, multi-faceted safety strategy with innovative technology,” said Dr. Daniel Schaper, head of research and development for 3P Services. “The highly detailed data obtained from our “smart pigs” provides PG&E engineers with accurate and reliable information in which to make informed decisions about how best to keep their pipeline network safe.”

PG&E uses “smart pigs” throughout its service area. Delivery of 3P Services’ multi-diameter “smart pig” is expected late this summer following testing in Germany.

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"PG&E" refers to Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation.
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