Modeling Natural Gas Distribution Systems & Pipelines

CHI Engineering

Operators of natural gas distribution systems have a responsibility to their customers to provide reliable service during peak day conditions. But they also have an interest in adding new customers and performing capital projects, such as main replacements. So, how do you know if your gas distribution system or pipeline can handle large new loads on a peak day? How do you size main replacements for future growth?

More and more gas utilities are using modeling programs to protect their customers and expend capital budgets in the most prudent manner. Specifically, an accurate network analysis model of a natural gas distribution system is used to:

  • Justify new load additions, size main relays, bypasses and main extensions.
  • Resolve day-to-day operational problems with shutdowns and debug other operational problems such as line blockages.
  • Provide guidance on how to operate regulator stations during peak periods.
  • Perform “what if” analyses of gas supply options and determine how to manage supply sources to maximize the lowest cost gas.

Many small gas utilities have assumed that it is too expensive to develop and maintain a model of their gas distribution system. However, with CHI’s experience and expertise, these models can be developed and calibrated quite efficiently using established methods and new software techniques.

Components of a Natural Gas Distribution System Model

The natural gas distribution system model has two major components:

  • The mains model
  • The customer loads

Mains are the distribution lines or pipes that carry gas to their destination. The mains model can be exported from a GIS system or developed from a manual mapping system. Once the mains model is developed, it should only require periodic maintenance to keep up to date.

The customer loads are calculated with customer summer and winter bill history using methods and equations developed by the Gas Research Institute and proven in service to be accurate. Customer loads should be updated every five years or so, depending on the number of new customers added.

Since costly capital improvements are being made based on the results of the model, it must be proven to be accurate. The gas distribution system model must be calibrated to actual peak day flow to also ensure that it is accurate. An up-to-date, calibrated model can pay for itself many times over.

CHI’s engineers are experts in modeling natural gas pipelines and distribution systems, as well as solving gas distribution system problems. We have applied our more than 35 years of experience in large and small gas distribution systems to solve a wide variety of gas distribution problems. Contact us for more information about our experience and techniques.


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