Excavation damage is one of the top causes of incidents in both the transmission and distribution pipeline sectors. Damage caused from insufficient notification of one-call centers or careless digging near gas pipelines can potentially result in property damage, significant injury, and/or loss of life. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and the Gas Technology Institute (GTI) have developed the framework for an Excavation Encroachment Notification (EEN) system to support damage prevention efforts to reduce damage from excavation activity. The research was funded by the California Energy Commission (CEC) and Operations Technology Development (OTD).
The system utilizes real-time Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and cellular-connected location and motion sensors placed on excavation equipment. Controlled and field-based testing and training of machine learning algorithms were conducted to aid in characterization of excavation equipment. Additionally, a GIS system populated with pipeline information allowed operators of excavation equipment and utilities to receive an alarm and indication when equipment is adjacent to or excavating in the vicinity of a gas pipeline. More broadly, the utility stakeholder has increased situational awareness of excavation activities within its service territory with access to the real-time activity of excavation equipment through a mobile-compatible dashboard, reducing excavation damage risk and improving safety. Lastly, the project offers historical data archiving for data analysis and trend identification.