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Dominion East Ohio Uses RFID to Inspect Natural Gas Pipes

The energy company is attaching passive HF RFID tags to aboveground pipes, and is using handheld readers and an iPhone app to manage the inspection data.
By Claire Swedberg
May 19, 2015

The East Ohio division of energy company Dominion is employing passive high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz RFID tags to reduce the risk of error, as well as the amount of labor time that workers spend collecting and storing data regarding aboveground pipeline inspections. The system includes IDBlue readers paired with smartphones or tablets via a Bluetooth connection, and software from Field ID. With the technology, inspectors can access data about the corrosion inspection and remediation history of each section of aboveground pipe and related equipment, as well as update that information while in the field.

Gina Rundo, a technical specialist at Dominion East Ohio, described how the company has benefited from its RFID technology installation at the RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, held last month in San Diego, Calif.

Scott Dersi, a Dominion employee, uses an IDBlue RFID reader paired with an iPhone to document a marker-maintenance task.
Dominion East Ohio delivers natural gas to 1.3 million customers. One of the company's responsibilities is to ensure that all aboveground pipelines are properly maintained. According to state and federal regulations, the firm must inspect all pipelines exposed to the atmosphere at least once every three years.

Until the RFID system was installed, Dominion East Ohio managed the pipe inspections and maintenance activities via a manual process. When staff members went into the field to inspect a station—encompassing numerous pipelines—they used paper and pen to manually indicate which station was being inspected, and whether that station passed inspection or required follow-up remediation, such as cleaning or repainting. While in the field, the workers lacked access to the inspection or remediation history of each station being inspected, and were thus unable to determine what previous remediation (such as a recoating of paint) might have been carried out to keep it in good condition, or view photographs showing what the pipe had looked like during a prior inspection.

Once finished with their work, inspectors delivered their paperwork to an office clerk, who input the information into the in-house software. The process was not only time-consuming, but also left room for human error, since workers in the field or office could make mistakes while recording information, such as pipeline ID numbers. In addition, there was no way to ensure that inspectors actually stopped at each area throughout a station to inspect every pipe component, versus simply writing up a report claiming they had done so.

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