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Summer 2010
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New Mexico Gas Company Starts from Scratch

Rapid GIS Deployment

Highlights

  • GIS-based maps enable utility staff to see the entire state at once.
  • With geographically enabled data, the utility can quickly create work orders.
  • With GIS, operations staff can see how its data relates to the company's transmission lines.

When New Mexico public utility company PNM sold its gas assets this year to Continental Energy Systems, the newly formed New Mexico Gas Company faced a significant hurdle: maintain existing service levels for its 500,000 customers while building an operations and engineering platform from scratch.

 
Task assistant tools allow New Mexico Gas Company staff to map designs for new construction and maintenance.

The utility needed its distribution data—information related to pipes, valves, meters, work orders, and customers—in one place where it could be stored, managed, and accessed by everyone on staff. A legacy GIS and various computer-aided drafting (CAD) and paper mapping systems had to be converted to one GIS. In addition, the company needed a core technology solution to facilitate engineering work and field access to data.

New Mexico Gas Company selected GIS technology from Esri so that utility data could be used, shared, and edited for operations, maintenance, and engineering functions. Within three months, the utility had consolidated disparate data into one place and deployed GIS tools throughout the company. The GIS launch was speedy, budget constraints were met, and employees were trained in time to use the new technology.

"With GIS-based maps, we can see our entire state at once," says Curtis Winner, New Mexico Gas Company manager of land services. "I turn on the aerial imagery, and all of a sudden, I'm in Carlsbad, a five-hour drive. It really helps staff evaluate projects and saves on travel. Using GIS tools, such as bookmarks, we can jump all over the state without leaving the office."

The first step was to migrate existing applications to the GIS. The second step was to focus on the data stored in its homegrown record-keeping database for gas distribution, AMIGO. Information such as construction orders, asset data, leak reports, and repairs was pulled into the GIS by linking each piece to relevant points, lines, and polygons.

"We looked at what we had, and we knew we could tie in the AMIGO data with attributes in GIS to improve data accuracy in the database," Winner says.

To enhance the geodatabase, New Mexico Gas Company brought in aerial photography, county street data, parcel data, and available environmental data. The utility built specific task assistant procedures for both mapping and design of distribution pipelines and other assets.

With GIS-based utility maps, the operations staff is able to view county assessor and parcel data, along with topography, aerial images, and customer information, and see how that data relates to the company's transmission lines.

Field crews use GPS data to track facilities and update asset information. Because all the data is geospatially enabled, the utility can quickly create work orders for new construction and maintenance. Using GIS-based spatial analysis, the company performs least-cost analysis to site potential pipeline corridors. These routes can also be imported into the utility's hydraulic modeling software, ensuring accurate and timely model runs.

"Potential routes can be identified quickly, and we know the exact length for generating accurate cost estimates," Winner says. "We have taken a lot of the what-ifs out of the equation and can quantify our recommendations."

New Mexico Gas Company also uses GIS for environmental planning and permitting. The staff can view assets in relation to groundwater discharge zones and other environmentally sensitive areas, such as cultural sites and threatened and endangered species habitats. "The GIS system is running smoothly and being used company-wide," says Deborah McDonald, GIS administrator, New Mexico Gas Company.

More Information

For more information, contact Curtis Winner, manager, Land Services (tel.: 505-697-3639, e-mail: curtis.winner@nmgco.com).

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