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Gas Ops Virtual Forum

Focused discussions and learning for gas utility personnel


April 5-8, 2021

This year MEA’s gas operations committees are bringing you the annual Gas Ops Forum–virtually–and will offer attendees the chance to participate in discussions and network with other gas industry professionals.

The Gas Ops Forum is a unique opportunity to share in a small group discussion with your peers about current issues, trends, and best practices. All sessions are moderated by gas industry experts. This roundtable-style event is your chance to ask questions, learn from industry counterparts, and share your experiences.

Monday, April 5, 2021

  • 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM | Welcome/Opening and Overview
  • 11:00 AM - 11:15 AM | Break
  • 11:15 AM - 12:00 PM | Re-integration of Workforces

    Codes & Standards

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss:

    • What plans does your organization have in place for re-integrating employees into the work place?
    • Will re-integration involve policies on vaccination? Will re-integration be in phases based on personnel roles and responsibilities?
    • What will training plans and the approach to training look like going forward?
    • Will there be long-term changes to internal practices as a result of the pandemic?
    • What considerations are being made for unknown variables (variants of COVID, other pandemics, etc.)?
  • 11:15 AM - 12:00 PM | Gas First Responder Hazards

    Safety | Moderators: Mark Lochner, WEC Energy Group - We Energies & Jeff Lott, Ameren Illinois Company

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss:

    • What is training at your utility like for this?
    • What are your priorities for gas first responders? Life, property, etc.
    • Protective equipment usage
    • The hazard assessment phase – how much time do you spend on this? what are the zones? what tools are available to aid with assessment?
  • 12:00 PM - 12:15 PM | Break
  • 12:15 PM - 1:00 PM | PE Rule Changes and the Effect on Fusion Procedures

    Distribution | Moderators: Dave Bakunas, Ameren Illinois Company; Brett Stone, McElroy Manufacturing, Inc.; Jim Johnston, McElroy Manufacturing, Inc; & Dennis Jarnecke, GTI

    This session will address PE rule changes, as well as the difference fusion procedures and how efforts are being made to align the various procedures.

  • 12:15 PM - 1:00 PM | Public Safety

    Safety | Moderators: Christy Matuszewski, MBW, Inc. & Mark Lochner, WEC Energy Group - We Energies

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss:

    • The increase of violence in our society has been well documented by the media. How do you train your field employees to read scenes and people and handle potentially dangerous encounters?
    • What Public safety advertising/public safety messaging is your organization putting out?
    • Public Awareness Programs
      • How are you acquiring necessary support, resources, communications?
      • What communication methods are most effective?
      • How are you capturing meaningful metrics and establishing baseline measurements?
    • Why do employees disregard safety rules and how do you combat that behavior?
    • What strategies do you have for gaining employee buy-in for safety training?
  • 1:00 PM - 1:15 PM | Break
  • 1:15 PM - 2:00 PM | AMI/AMR/IOT Issues Concerns and Analytics

    Measurement | Moderators: Fred Maly, Romet Limited; Rich Dewar, Itron; & Mark Brandt, Ameren Missouri

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss how they interface with their AMR or AMI system. How the technology has changed their role or what they are able to accomplish. Participants will share the good and bad experiences with implementing AMI/AMR and issues or concerns they face utilizing these technologies. Consider the following:

    • For those that have the same/similar role pre and post AMI implementation, what has changed within your role?
    • Do any of you make use of analytics? for what purpose? facilitate customer discussion for billing, detecting theft, identifying measurement errors, etc.
    • How has, in your view, moving to an AMR or AMI system changed how your company interfaces with their customers?
    • Are there any concerns from customers about “”smart”” metering?
    • What is IOT and what does it look for the future of energy?
  • 1:15 PM - 2:00 PM | Lessons Learned: Handling a Pandemic in a Control Room

    Gas System Controls | Moderator: Brian Crego, Colorado Springs Utilities

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss:

    • The sequestering process that companies participated in – how was this accomplished? How was it received?
    • Work from home – how was that managed with regards to equipment and devices needed?
    • How do you keep your controllers socially distant? Besides sequestering and working from home (ex: Alternate location, Shift adjustments)
    • Will this permanently impact/change any practices going forward? What will we do in the future if there is another Pandemic, extended social unrest, etc.?

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

  • 10:15 AM - 11:00 AM | Mentorship and Apprenticeship

    Safety | Moderators: Stephen Simmons, MidAmerican Energy Company & Ward Westphal, MP Technologies, LLC

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss:

    • Union based apprenticeships vs. independent apprenticeships
    • How are utilities setting up their mentorship programs?
    • Training challenges for apprenticeships with social distancing concerns
  • 10:15 AM - 11:00 AM | PHMSA Audits

    Gas System Controls | Moderators: Brian Crego, Colorado Springs Utilities & Tim Olsen, CenterPoint Energy

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss:

    • Audit findings
    • Considerations for and experiences with virtual audits
    • Stay of enforcement due to the Pandemic – did anyone experience any documented deviations?
  • 11:00 AM - 11:15 AM | Break
  • 11:15 AM - 12:00 PM | Updating Standards & Policies - Inflow

    Codes & Standards | Moderators: Karli McNeill, Consumers Energy & Lisa Ross, Colorado Springs Utilities

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss:

    • Challenges with management of change
    • Receiving feedback/suggestions of change
    • How particular codes apply
    • Record Keeping
    • Digital vs. paper record keeping and how it is stored
  • 11:15 AM - 12:00 PM | Project Tracking & Coordination Best Practices

    Gas System Controls | Moderator: Lou Brommett, CenterPoint Energy

    Discussion of best practices for Gas Control coordination with Field groups during projects requiring Gas Control interaction. Consider the following:

    • How does your Control Room manage participation in projects?
    • How does your Control Room track participation in the planning and execution of projects?
    • Do you use specific forms or tools to track and participate in projects?
  • 12:00 PM - 12:15 PM | Break
  • 12:15 PM - 1:00 PM | Line Locating - Normal and AOC Methods

    Distribution | Moderators: Tim Johnston, WSB & John Gerlach, WSB

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss:

    • QAQC – how do you assure yourself your locates are being done well?
    • Does your organization use internal personnel for your locates, or contract? Or a combination of both?
    • What new technologies/methodologies in line locating are out there?
  • 12:15 PM - 1:00 PM | Virtual Control Room Tour

    Gas System Controls

  • 1:00 PM - 1:15 PM | Break
  • 1:15 PM - 2:00 PM | Odorization and Pickling

    Measurement | Moderators: Mark Brandt, Ameren Missouri; Steve Blunier, Ameren Illinois Company; & Josh Powell, Ameren Illinois Company

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss:

    • Has your company standardized on a method of odorant delivery or equipment configuration?
    • Concerns and challenges with odorizing low flow systems.
    • Developing quality flow signals to drive injection rates.
    • Procedures and practices for conditioning/pickling new pipelines.
    • How do you manage and track injection rates and how do you make adjustments to your systems?
  • 1:15 PM - 2:00 PM | Best Practices in Operations Plans for Incident Avoidance

    Distribution | Moderator: Brandon Braun, City Utilities of Springfield

    Safety briefings are common across the utility industry, but what are utilities doing to avoid large scale, less common risk? In this session attendees will discuss operations plans and procedures, or lack thereof, to avoid catastrophic incidents. Participants will consider:

    • Does your engineering department provide anything to construction when the order of operations is critical to the outcome of the procedure?
    • What protocol does your utility use when working around regulator stations?
    • Does your utility practice catastrophic response simulations?
    • Does your utility have a different chain of approval for critical work?

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

  • 10:15 AM - 11:00 AM | Measurement Issues and Concerns

    Measurement | Moderators: Jason Neal, Dresser Natural Gas Solutions; Casey White, Black Hills Corporation; & Fred Maly, Romet Limited

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss:

    • Are there specific applications or locations that are driving issues for your org.?
    • Are there concerns with widely varying flow rates?
    • Are you adapting technology to existing meter sets? What options are out there for this?
    • Have you seen any innovative installations or standards
    • What bypass options and concerns are you facing?
  • 10:15 AM - 11:00 AM | Evaluating Your Safety Program Effectiveness

    Safety | Moderators: Roy Adams, CenterPoint Energy & Tom Ray, City Utilities of Springfield

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss the best ways to evaluate your programs effectiveness. The group will discuss and consider the following:

    • Conducting a class, documenting field observations, evaluations
    • Challenges that have arisen from 2020
    • Who at your organization is responsible for evaluating a program’s effectiveness?
  • 11:00 AM - 11:15 AM | Break
  • 11:15 AM - 12:00 PM | Keeping Everything in Step - Aligning Standards, Specs & Manuals

    Codes & Standards | Moderator: Bill Stephens, Black Hills Corporation

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss:

    • How do you deal with the inflow of information and keep information consistent?
    • Types of manuals based on assets
    • Management of change for documentations – what is your process for this?
    • When you make a change, what tools are you using to keep it organized? Committees, software, database, etc.
    • Expedited Variance Process
  • 11:15 AM - 12:00 PM | In the Meantime: Learning from our Mistakes

    Safety | Moderators: Tom Ray, City Utilities of Springfield & Jeff Lott, Ameren Illinois Company

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss:

    • Corrective action, as a results of a near miss report
    • Corrective action, when agencies/legalities are involved
    • Corrective actions and internal politics (HR, employees, systemic)
    • What can your organization do (before the final agency determination) to learn from an experience?
    • How can you use near miss reports as a proactive tool to learn from mistakes?
    • How quickly can you implement change after an incident occurs?
  • 12:00 PM - 12:15 PM | Break
  • 12:15 PM - 1:00 PM | Lessons Learned with Virtual Training

    Distribution | Moderators: Dave Bakunas, Ameren Illinois Company; Rich Stocker, SENSIT Technologies; & Wade Farr, Mainline Control Systems

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss:

    • How are you managing virtual training? What tools/technology are you utilitizing?
    • How are you working through the hands-on elements of training and qualification?
    • What are some pros and cons of virtual training?
  • 12:15 PM - 1:00 PM | Team Training

    Gas System Controls | Moderator: Debi Croy, Ameren Illinois Company

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss control room team training and exercises that include both controllers and other individuals who would be expected to operationally collaborate with gas controllers during normal, abnormal, or emergency situations. Consider the following:

    • Who is included in the training?
    • Is it mandatory?
    • How do you keep track of the names of the employees who have completed the training?
    • How do you do the training?
    • Is the training in person or do you use other methods, i.e. cbt’s?
    • Has there been any regulatory push back if you are doing CBT?
  • 1:00 PM - 1:15 PM | Break
  • 1:15 PM - 2:00 PM | Regulator/Meter Availability and Deliverability Concerns or Alternatives (Re-Manufacturing)

    Measurement | Moderators: Scott Chenell, Irby Utilities; Joe Rico, Energy Economics, Inc.; & Casey White, Black Hills Corporation

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss methods to mitigate issues arising from meter and regulator shortages. Consider the following:

    • Is anyone experiencing issues with long lead times on meters and regulators and what action are you taking in order to keep stock levels sufficient?
    • Is anyone planning a year ahead of time with forecasting and projections to meet the need for meters and regulators for that year and what is working/not working for you?
    • Are you using only one vendor to supply you with standard regulator and meter needs or are you using multiple to keep stock levels where they are needed?
    • If you are keeping multiple brands and models of regs and meters – how are you stocking multiple repair parts and training personnel to repair/rebuild?
    • Do you purchase used meters?
    • Do you rebuild regulators?
  • 1:15 PM - 2:00 PM | Construction Bidding Practices

    Distribution | Moderators: Brandon Braun, City Utilities of Springfield & Greg Hatfield, Ameren Missouri

    In the current labor market, some utilities and contractors are having trouble finding skilled labor for natural gas work. In this roundtable session, participants will discuss construction bidding practices utilities use for project delivery. Attendees can share and discuss effective bidding practices and ask other related questions to project delivery. Participants will consider the following:

    • What methods of construction bidding does your company typically adhere to?
    • How does your utility solicit new contractors to bid work?
    • Have you tried non-traditional project delivery methods, such as design-build?

Thursday, April 8, 2021

  • 10:15 AM - 11:00 AM | Regulator Issues and Concerns

    Measurement | Moderators: Steve Blunier, Ameren Illinois Company; Rich Dewar, Itron; & Fred Maly, Romet Limited

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss:

    • Are there specific applications or locations that are driving issues for your org.?
    • Are there concerns with widely varying flow rates?
    • Are you adapting technology to existing regulators? What options are out there for this?
    • Have you seen any innovative installations or standards
    • What bypass options and concerns are you facing?
    • How are companies monitoring issues/failures? SCADA/AMI
  • 10:15 AM - 11:00 AM | Response to Blowing Gas Situation

    Distribution | Moderators: Greg Hatfield, Ameren Missouri & Eddie Lynch, Ameren Illinois Company

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss:

    • How are you managing the response to blowing gas situations?
    • Are you using gas valves to shut down? Are you using squeeze off to shut down?
    • What are you using for PPE?
    • Have you experienced some close calls? What were the lessons learned from those experiences?
  • 11:00 AM - 11:15 AM | Break
  • 11:15 AM - 12:00 PM | Updating Standards & Policies - Outflow

    Codes & Standards | Moderator: Duffy Mooney, City Utilities of Springfield

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss:

    • The process for publishing updated standards/policies
    • Management of change – communicating it out to contractors, employees, etc.
    • Digital vs. paper considerations – how are you addressing digital challenges of getting standards out? What platforms are you using?
  • 11:15 AM - 12:00 PM | Bridging Safety Program Gaps in a Virtual World: Assessing, Re-evaluating and Bridging

    Safety | Moderators: Roy Adams, CenterPoint Energy & Jeff Lott, Ameren Illinois Company

  • 12:00 PM - 12:15 PM | Break
  • 12:15 PM - 1:00 PM | Lessons Learned - Aspen, CO Sabotage Large Event Incident

    Codes & Standards | Moderator: Bill Stephens, Black Hills Corporation

    Hear from Black Hills Corporation on the lessons learned during the recent Aspen, CO large event incident that resulted from targeted sabotage. The group will discuss the process for calculating shut down/re-light timing in order to predict the length of an event – considering conditions, types of customers, terrain and extenuating circumstances.

  • 12:15 PM - 1:00 PM | ERX Best Practices

    Gas System Controls | Moderators: Tim Olsen, CenterPoint Energy & Lou Brummett, CenterPoint Energy

    This will be a roundtable session on best practices related to implementation and use of your ERX-type units in the field. Consider the following:

    • Do you monitor live pressures in SCADA with your ERX devices?
    • Do your ERX’s connect to SCADA only when there is an alarm?
    • Do you use them simply as a data recorder (like a paper chart)?
    • Approximately how many ERX-type units are deployed on your enterprise and monitored by Gas Control?
    • Is your ERX data stream live or intermittent to Gas Control? Both?
    • What challenges and benefits do you have relating to ERX-type units?
    • What do you use ERX devices for besides pressure?
    • What are regulatory agencies requiring if you put ERXs in place?
  • 1:00 PM - 1:15 PM | Break
  • 1:15 PM - 2:00 PM | Renewable Natural Gas

    Distribution | Moderator: Tim Johnston, WSB

    During this roundtable session participants will discuss:

    • With regards to renewable natural gas, have you run into this? Has anybody applied to bring gas into your system?
    • If so, How are you managing gas quality? How are you managing odorization?
  • 1:15 PM - 2:00 PM | Levels of Overpressure Protection

    Measurement | Moderators: Fred Maly, Romet Limited & Steve Blunier, Ameren Illinois Company

    This roundtable session will begin with an overview of methods of overpressure protection, followed by a discussion on:

    • Is your company considering adding additional layers of overpressure protection based on some of the current industry concerns? Double failure protection?
    • Is your company requiring full relief?
    • Is your company requiring different operating methods for regulation?
    • Do you use different overpressure protection standards for different delivery pressures?

Previous Attendees Say


95%

of 2019 survey respondents would recommend the forum to a colleague and were satisfied or very satisfied with the

overall value of the forum.

opportunities to connect with peers.

 

We asked 2019 attendees which sessions were most impactful. Here are a few of their responses:

“PHMSA Mega Rule”

“Fatigue Management and the discussion of staffing and scheduling options”

“Peak Day/Design Day”

“Blowing Gas”

“Geo Hazard and risk/mitigating Mother Nature”

“Communication with the city, village, or township regarding permitting issues”