Note: originally published by E.N.I’s Ecos on 1998.
In Tunisia the Transmed has a highly sensitive observation post, the dispatch room at the Cape Bon plant. All the data collected along the gas pipeline come to this room via cable or radio.
And all the orders for the remote control of the Tunisian section of the gasline are sent out from here. The dispatching is done by an all-Tunisian team of two engineers and seven technicians.
The team is coordinated by Fayez Kilani Jrad, who tells us, first of all, that it was the dispatch room that realized, in November and in April, that the flow of gas from Algeria had been interrupted. The team played an important role in dealing with the emergencies.
"We took action at once, to avoid accidents due to the lack of gas in transit. The safety systems at the stations might have been triggered off. So without waiting for the pressure to fall, we shut down the plants." A great console dominates the room.
"Thanks to this system", says Fayez Kilani Jrad, "we can see and process in real time all the data concerning any point on the route. And we can start or stop the machines, open or shut the valves (there are 19 interception points along the Tunisian stretch) and change the regulation or gas flow parameters. Distance measurements and warnings of the slightest abnormal conditions arrive here."
An electronic plan of Tunisia fixed to a panel on one of the walls shows not only the two Transmed pipes but also all the infrastructure that makes it possible to channel natural gas from the Algerian border to Italy. The flow capacity is shown in green; the gas pressure in orange.
On average between 2,300,000 and 2,400,000 cubic meters of gas an hour pass through. But the average values do not reflect what happens from day to day. In winter the peaks range from 3,300,000 to 3,400,000 cubic meters per hour.
On Friday June 19, a normal day, the gas pipeline received 2,107,000 cubic meters of gas from Algeria.
"In accordance with the buyers' requests, the supply was divided up as follows: about one and a half million for Snam and 600,000 for Enel, Geoplin of Slovenia and Steg, the Tunisian electricity and gas company", says Fayez Kilani Jrad.
"And here is the 'tap' that regulates the entry of the gas. If the client asks for more or less gas than before, the team in this room varies the amount coming in by increasing or reducing the number of turbo-compressors operating at the booster stations. And it is our job to ensure the maximum safety for the country, the operators and the infrastructure."
The two Transmed pipes run parallel under the ground, at a safety distance that is never less than 17 meters. There is also a safety band on the outside of the gasline for maintenance and any emergency action to be taken.
The gasline pipes are carefully monitored, explains Alberto Anselmi, President and General Manager of Scogat. Apart from the normal checks of the line made to Snam standards, twice a year the Transmed route is thoroughly inspected from the air, by helicopter.
The most delicate job, however, is done by the "pig", which periodically makes a complete x-ray of the pipeline, and the caliber pig checks whether the pipe has become oval. Alongside the gasline runs a cable that transports all the information and data to the dispatch room at Cape Bon.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)