Gasunie and Orbital Eye - Operational assessment of satellite-based right-of-way inspections
Proceedings Publication Date
Arnaud van den Berg
Alexander Blauw, Arnaud van den Berg, Bas Schoonbeek
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Many pipeline operators are exploring alternatives for right-of-way (ROW) inspections next to field patrols. Over the past decades, aerial inspections have been the industry standard. Recently, this view has been shifting and modern technologies are being introduced as strong alternatives. One of these alternatives is based on satellites which has the advantage of (i) covering extensive areas efficiently, (ii) fusing multiple sensors to obtain (near) continuous inspection, (iii) operating with zero emissions, and (iv) be less costly when deployed at scale compared to existing methods.

During 2023 Gasunie, one of the major players in the European Gas Transmission Market, has looked into alternative right-of-way (ROW) inspection methods to replace their conventional helicopter inspections. Market research showed that the COSMIC-EYE (Combined-Sar-Multi-spectral-Change detection) service, as offered by Orbital Eye, is currently the only viable operations-ready alternative to helicopter surveys. To assess the suitability of this service for daily operations within Gasunie, close to 700 km of pipelines was operationally monitored over the course of 6 months in 2023.

In this conference contribution, we discuss this operational trial from the perspective of the Gas Transmission System Operator. Starting from the expectations of both management and the operational staff prior to monitoring, we discuss the impact on daily operations and review the monitoring results from the end-user perspective. This in turn translates into the estimated operational value and costs of the service for daily operations and will serve as the main input to Gasunie's conclusions with respect to the suitability of the service as an alternative to conventional ROW inspection methods. Finally, the future of ROW monitoring at Gasunie and the larger TSO market is discussed from a technical, integration, and management view where the focus is on the value that satellites can bring to large TSO networks.

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