PG&E goes mobile to streamline operations, mitigate risk

In 2010, a PG&E pipeline ruptured and exploded in the city of San Bruno, California. In the aftermath of the incident, Khaled Fustok was appointed to lead the company’s natural gas technology planning team to modernize its processes.

“Our vision is to be the safest and most reliable gas company,” said Khaled. “The lesson learned from the San Bruno incident was both around the availability of our records, the quality of our data, and we wanted to identify and leverage quality data to drive risk-informed asset management. We want to be able to provide our employees and contractors with the right content and information at the right time to ensure the work is being executed according to our standards and procedures.”

Most of PG&E‘s data collection processes were paper based, with records housed in various of places across the company’s 70,000 square-mile service territory. This meant that procedures and processes were inconsistent across districts. Khaled’s team made investments to eliminate disparate and redundant databases, leverage enterprise work management systems, and provide PG&E field workers with the ability to capture transactions using mobile technology. “Mobility became a corner stone of our strategy going forward.”

Khaled’s team started looking at mobile applications that were already used internally within PG&E. But none of them acted as a panacea to meet all of PG&E’s required capabilities. The company sought a solution that was simple to use, device-agnostic, cloud-connected, and with offline capabilities and business intelligence analytics – ProntoForms was a perfect fit.

A proof-of-concept was developed for two areas: quality control/quality assurance forms and atmospheric corrosion inspections for 1.2 million gas meters. In a span of one month, the forms were designed, the data was uploaded to the cloud, and the devices were configured, tested, and deployed. The project went live in February of 2015.

“We were able to complete, ahead of schedule, all of the inspections. We’ve also made the data – including images, geospatial information, and corrosion ratings – available for our management team, who go through the data to determine which meters, based on the inspections, are to be replaced, and which meters can be maintained for the next inspection cycle. So, all in all, the proof-of-concept, although it’s not really a proof-of- concept when you talk about 1.2 million meters, was very successful. And the QC/QA team was very successful as well.”

Several PG&E contractors were wary of the new platform at first, but their concerns were quelled by the solution’s capabilities, which allows them to collect accurate, secure data on their own devices. The ProntoForms team was proactive in supplying PG&E with solutions to the implementation challenges the company faced in the early stages of adoption. Company leadership expressed confidence in the solution once they received a business intelligence report that provided clear visibility into the condition of the gas meters.

The IT division expressed concerns about data security, with data being housed in the cloud, but Khaled worked with ProntoForms and PG&E’s enterprise risk management team to ensure that business continuity standards are followed.

Khaled Fustok and his team plan to harness ProntoForms for additional inspections in 2016. “Obviously, whenever you deliver a successful solution, your reward is always more work. We’re planning on leveraging the Pronto- Forms solution for about 1.7 million meters that will have to be inspected for corrosion in 2016.”

The entire QC/QA team is ready to fully adopt the platform starting in January 2016, while the damage prevention team has already started using it. Khaled is examining other processes to mobilize, such as construction and maintenance forms, pipeline patrol, and third-party installations.

PG&E has already seen a return on investment. “We’ve looked at the atmospheric corrosion inspection costs in 2013 and 2014, ongoing support costs, as well as the productivity rate of our contractors and employees in terms of their ability to inspect. We’ve also looked at the downtime of the prior systems, and compared the overall total cost. Just in 2015 alone, we saved about $1.5 million in atmospheric corrosion costs.”

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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