Gas utility industry undergoing era of transformation | HCLTech

Gas utility industry undergoing era of transformation

Natural gas firms are embracing sustainability and operational transformations that are fundamentally reshaping the industry
5 minutes read
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
US Reporter, HCLTech
5 minutes read
Gas utility industry undergoing era of transformation

Increased focus on sustainability and consumer expectations are impacting a range of industries across the globe and the gas utility industry is no exception. Consumers and regulators are expecting better customer service and accountability from the industry, especially concerning sustainability. 

The gas utility industry is undergoing a major transformation, driven by a confluence of technological, environmental and regulatory factors. They are not only modernizing their infrastructure but also redefining their role in the broader energy landscape. By fostering sustainability, embracing innovation and prioritizing resilience, the gas utility industry is poised for a future that not only meets the needs of today but also anticipates and addresses the challenges of tomorrow.

Embracing a transformative journey

This transformative journey signifies a commitment to a cleaner, more efficient and sustainable energy future and embracing technological innovations plays an important part in the process.

Smart infrastructure integrates smart sensors and IoT devices for real-time monitoring and predictive maintenance, which then enhances operational efficiencies, reduces downtime and improves overall system reliability. Digital twins are another innovation that create virtual replicas of gas infrastructure and help facilitate scenario-based planning, predictive modeling and efficient system optimization.

The transformative journey for a sustainable energy future marks a paradigm shift in sustainability and environmental responsibility. Renewable gas integration and emission reduction initiatives are integral to this journey. Embracing renewable gas sources, such as biomethane and hydrogen, contributes to decarbonization efforts and aligns with broader sustainability goals. The emission reduction initiatives also include implementing strategies to minimize methane emissions during production and distribution, support environmental stewardship and comply with regulatory requirements.

Lastly, building for the future will involve infrastructure modernization for the gas utility industry. To help modernize infrastructure, pipeline integrity management helps with the early detection of pipeline issues by using advanced technologies for continuous monitoring. It enhances safety, reduces the risk of leaks and ensures the longevity of infrastructure.

As companies set ambitious ESG targets, natural gas companies are embracing more efficient solutions to ensure a sustainable and customer-centric future for the industry. Recent investments by oil and gas companies are aimed at making current fields more sustainable, along with using more resources to develop green technologies such as carbon capture, usage and storage. Additionally, gas and oil firms are beginning to work with utility providers to monitor and address Scope 3 carbon emissions, which come from sections of the supply chain outside a company’s own operations.

Slow on transformation

“However, while many gas utilities have embarked on digital transformation journeys, they are debating on the need for full-scale transformation, which may require replacement of operating procedures and the technology to support it,” said Prakash Menon, Associate Vice President & Industry Principal, Utilities, HCLTech. The manual and time-consuming processes prevalent in the industry can be an impediment to transformation.

Limited data accessibility or availability and the capability to analyze that data is another challenge facing the industry.

“Without proper investments in tools, these companies would not be able to access, analyze or derive insights from the data,” said Menon. “What they do have today is a very cumbersome process of moving data from multiple systems, creating data reports, which is time consuming and inefficient.”

Gas utility companies often fail to provide adequate information to enhance consumer experience, which includes providing correct and complete information, beyond just presenting utility bills.

“It’s not that all utilities are like this, but a majority of them will run into trouble if they don’t embark on strategic and digital transformation and do not pay attention to advanced technology,” added Menon.

While adopting new technologies and meeting new regulatory requirements, companies must continue to protect their systems along the way from cyber threats.

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Toward a sustainable, safer and consumer-friendly future

In recent years, there has been a rise in adoption of smart meters, which are advanced measurement devices that provide real-time data on gas consumption. Smart meters — unlike traditional meters — transmit data remotely to utility companies, which helps with real-time data collection, two-way communication for remote disconnections and reconnections and data accuracy.

Smart meters are playing a pivotal role in transformation of the gas utility industry by improving operational efficiency, enhancing customer engagement and contributing to safety and environmental sustainability.

From a safety perspective, these devices help detect abnormal gas consumption patterns, aiding in the early detection of gas leaks and reducing safety risks. In terms of sustainability, smart meters can monitor and optimize gas distribution, help reduce emissions and minimize the environmental impact. Additionally, smart meters can be adapted to accommodate renewable gases and contribute to a more sustainable energy mix.

According to Menon, HCLTech is working with leading gas utility operators in Europe, the US and Asia to improve customer engagement, improve reliability of services and enhance transparency.

HCLTech also offers a variety of energy and utilities solutions, including electric utility network management, asset management, utility safety and operations and cybersecurity solutions.

The gas utility industry plays an important role in providing clean and reliable energy to millions of households and businesses around the planet. Operational technology has revolutionized the way gas utilities operate, improving efficiency, safety and sustainability. To handle disruption across the sector, the industry will need to innovate and transform, while allowing emerging technologies to play a crucial role in seizing the opportunities in the sector.

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