For energy companies managing liquified natural gas (LNG) and/or electrical substations, it’s not just good to know quickly when construction activity or seismic impacts have affected their infrastructure. It’s critical, sometimes even life-or-death safety information.
Today, technology developed by GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc. in New Hampshire has made this kind of continuous monitoring safe, practical and reliable for energy companies operating throughout New England and increasingly, the nation. Most importantly, GZA’s vibration monitoring system can be installed in areas where it may be too hazardous for technicians to gather real-time data using conventional equipment.
GZA Project Manager Mirsad Alihodzic, who joined GZA in 2004 and is based in the engineering consulting firm’s Bedford office, worked for years to perfect a system that reliably integrates multiple pieces of technology: a seismograph that monitors ground vibrations, uses telecommunications to transmit data, backup power supplies, and a protective enclosure which is safe for environments with explosive concentrations of dusts and vapors.
For good measure, Alihodzic also added the capability for the monitoring system to operate on solar power for months at a time without running out of power.
In areas where construction is underway, early detection of ground vibrations can help energy companies prevent damage to the infrastructure.
“This system sends us emails or text messages whenever there are events that we need to know about and interpret for clients,’’ Alihodzic said. More than once, Alihodzic has had the experience of calling a client at a job site from his office just seconds after he’s been alerted that some kind of construction activity has affected their equipment. “They are really impressed — and grateful — that we knew immediately that something had happened that required the need to investigate to make sure their infrastructure remains safe,’’ Alihodzic said.
Prior to the development of GZA’s remote automated system, the standard practice at a site where, for example, bedrock was undergoing blasting for a construction project, would have involved sending a field engineer to collect and compare data in the field using a seismograph. Typically, a limited amount of data would be collected during the blasting period and the engineers would record, analyze and use this information to evaluate whether the blasting had potentially impacted their infrastructure.
With remote instrumentation, the data is recorded, analyzed and reported; however, now this is done a lot faster. GZA can collect data 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the duration of the project and the data is available in real-time.
“At the end of the day,’’ Alihodzic said, “no matter how big or small the project, the automated monitoring provides peace of mind to everyone involved in the work. Ideally, we’ll never see an alarm triggered. But if it is, our energy clients receive an immediate warning that there may be an issue, allowing them to resolve it before it becomes a serious problem for them or the public.”