The step follows one of the worst accidents involving the firm in June last year when its pipeline...
carrying natural gas exploded in Andhra Pradesh, killing about two dozen people and bringing it harsh public criticism. An official probe into the incident safety lapses at the firm and prompted the regulator, Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB), to slap a penalty.
"It (the accident) definitely shook GAIL in terms of credibility," company chairman B C Tripathi said. The accident, along with a struggling natural gas business due to a global commodity crash, has hammered the company's public standing since. Ashutosh Karnatak, director (projects) at GAIL, said the firm plans to use drones to detect encroachments around pipelines, "the biggest potential hazard" as illegal human habitations on the gas route substantially raise the risk of accidents and the scale of damage.
GAIL plans to conduct a pilot in 2-3 months, wherein a drone will fly over a 200-km stretch of pipeline, collecting all relevant data using smart technology. It will soon issue a tender seeking the drone services, he said "The drone will be more accurate. It will also ultimately be more cost effective as it can help replace our foot and helicopter patrolling," said Karnatak.
At present, GAIL mostly deploys foot patrolling to spot encroachments and seeks local administration's help in getting those cleared. It also partly uses helicopters for the job and has spent about Rs 15-20 crore on this in the past two years.
Officials said the company is looking to induce a new culture of safety in the organisation. "We are migrating from a reactive to a proactive management, from a breakdown maintenance culture to a predictive maintenance culture," Karnatak said.
After the accident last year, GAIL has increased patrolling and follow-up actions. Tripathi said the company is replacing older pipelines of about 500 km at a cost of Rs 3,000 crore in three years.
The advanced technological systems are being deployed to detect any safety breach and quickly respond to it.
The Maharatna PSU has set up a group of specialists to monitor all pipeline parameters.
About 6,500 km of the 11,000 km of natural gas pipeline the company operates have already been examined for their health and the process is underway for the rest.
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