Case Study – Managing Gas Pipeline Data

The Challenge

Suppose your employer gives you the task of quickly finding a document containing information critical to the success of the company. Complicating the situation, your employer is a large conglomerate in the energy sector who possesses a vast archive containing tens of millions of documents, both physical and digital and in all manner of formats. These documents comprise the sole reference source for every specification and rule that governs your company’s business and infrastructure. Making matters worse, you are not sure which documents have the vital information you need. You have a deadline with millions of dollars to be saved or lost depending on your ability to swiftly find the information needed. How would you approach this problem?

Why It's Critical!

Energy companies are heavily regulated and monitored. Some of the more memorable environmental crises in the last twenty years, such as oil spills and valve explosions, have been due to failures in energy infrastructure that resulted in the tragic loss of lives, along with large fines, collateral, and increased regulatory scrutiny. After a major natural gas line explosion, the entire industry found themselves needing to supply auditors with very specific information. In short, all pipeline operators had to prove the maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP) for every inch of pipe (on over 500 miles of pipeline). The federal government passed a compensatory regulation that empowered auditors to request pipe MAOP data. An auditor should be able to point to a map of pipes anywhere in a company’s infrastructure, and that company would be legally obliged to prove via documentation that the pipeline was operating below the segment’s tested MAOP.

Stack of Cash -Oil and Gas Document Management

We're Talking Real Money Here

If a company could not swiftly produce the information and thus failed the audit, they would not only suffer steep fines, but would be required to retest the line.  Pressure testing a line segment is so involved that it costs about $1MM per mile, not including the lost productivity cost of having the line out of operation. To avoid failing information audits, somehow companies would need the ability to query against all their documentation and quickly parse out a few pages of information from hundreds of millions.

The Solution

Let’s examine how one specific company (let’s call them E-corp) addressed this issue. To make the customer’s data accessible, E-corp worked with our Enterprise Content Management (ECM) team to build a software-based solution for querying their documents. Our ECM team realized that building a good solution would require making E-corp’s diverse array of documentation centralized, organized, and digital.

Step 1: Capture the Data

What is the best way to convert numerous documents presenting themselves in all shapes, sizes, and layouts into an organized digital repository? Our team recommended the intelligent capture platform Ephesoft Transact. Working with E-corp’s existing scanners and multi-function printers, Ephesoft allowed operators to rapidly turn these business-critical pieces of paper into full text searchable PDFs. Further, the system was able to automatically classify and extract relevant metadata from these documents. Using a concept called exception-based processing, instead of having to manually key in all of the information about a document, operators were only asked to review and validate the information for which the system’s confidence threshold had not been met. This allows an operator to process at a much quicker rate than they would using more traditional scanning solutions.

Cropped Oil and Gas Pipeline image

Step 2: Make it Accessible

Once digitized, however, the documents still needed a place to live, and for this we recommended  a centralized ECM platform called Alfresco. Leveraging the information extracted by Ephesoft, Alfresco automatically categorized, sorted, and organized the documentation such that engineers could easily locate what they needed via browsing or searching the repository.  Further, by leveraging the Alfresco API, E-corp was able to integrate the system with their Geographic Information System (GIS) so that auditors could literally point at a piece of the pipeline within the GIS, an engineer could click “get documents,” and Alfresco would serve up the relevant documentation that proved the MAOP and operating pressure of the pipeline. Our ECM team’s solution empowered E-corp to rapidly respond to auditors by procuring delivering requested pipe and infrastructure data at the stroke of a few keys.

Your organization’s documentation needs might not be this technical, and you might not be facing quite the financial penalties that threatened E-corp, but the time, expense, frustration, and potential risk of poor content management is real for every company. If you’re looking to streamline your content management processes, we can help. Contact us to start a conversation. We’re here for you!

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