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The Role of Accreditation in Elevating the Quality of City Gas Distribution in India and Beyond

Natural gas is widely recognized as an eco-friendly and clean energy source, offering significant potential to address environmental concerns while meeting the increasing demand for energy sustainably. The Government of India has placed emphasis on encouraging the adoption of natural gas as both a fuel and feedstock nationwide, aiming to elevate its proportion in the primary energy mix from its current level to 15% by 2030. At present, about 23,500 Km long gas pipeline network is under operation in the country and around 12,000 KM pipeline is approved/under construction. The GoI plans to complete the vision of One Nation One Gas Grid by 2030.

Understanding Accreditation
Accreditation is the process by which an authoritative body evaluates and certifies the competence, integrity, and performance of organizations, laboratories, and individuals. First and foremost, accreditation fosters confidence among stakeholders, and also acts as a catalyst for continuous improvement. By adhering to internationally recognized standards and best practices, stakeholders are compelled to enhance their processes, technologies, and workforce competence. This not only leads to higher efficiency but also promotes innovation and sustainability in the sector.

India is among the top nations working towards enhancing the quality infrastructure within the country & beyond. India’s national accreditation system under the Quality Council of India (QCI) ranked 5th in the world in the recent Global Quality Infrastructure Index (GQII) 2021. The GQII ranks the 184 economies in the world on the basis of the quality infrastructure (QI).

The responsibility of the accreditation procedure in India rests on the shoulders of National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB) which is a constituent board under the Quality Council of India. It is mandated to provide accreditation to Conformity Assessment Bodies (Certification, Inspection & Validation/Verification Bodies) as per international standards, generally ISO standards for various Conformity Assessment Schemes / Standards.
CGD System across the Globe: A Comparative Study
CGD System in USA:- Approximately two-thirds of crude oil and refined products in the United States are transported through pipelines, while almost all natural gas is conveyed via the same means. Various everyday essentials such as stoves, automobiles, ovens, planes, and dryers rely on products derived from oil and natural gas. ASME B31.8-2022: Gas Transmission And Distribution Piping Systems outlines specifications aimed at ensuring the secure transportation of gas within pipeline infrastructures.
ASME B31.8-2022 addresses the entire process from design and fabrication to installation, inspection, examination, and testing of pipeline facilities utilized in gas transportation. It encompasses engineering prerequisites essential for the secure design and construction of pressure piping. Furthermore, the standard delineates safety considerations regarding the operation and maintenance of such pipeline facilities, aiming to safeguard both the general public and workers.

CGD System in the European Union:- National Energy and Utilities Regulatory Commission (NEURC) is the regulatory body for Gas distribution in the EU. Over the past few years, Ukraine has made a number of important changes in the regulation of the gas market. One of the main achievements was the adoption in 2015 of the Law of Ukraine “On the Natural Gas Market”. The new law enshrined in the EU’s economically sound approaches to the organization of the natural gas market, separate’s the functions of the operator from the functions of gas production and supply, clearly outline the functions of the state and the independence of the regulator, and establishes the principle of regulating natural monopolies and free pricing in competitive gas market segments.

Role of Inspection Bodies in ensuring Accreditation
The Inspection body accreditation is a formal means of demonstrating the technical competence to perform specific types of inspections, thereby providing a ready means for the customers to gain confidence in the quality of inspection services they will receive. Inspection aims at demonstrating the safety and functionality of the inspected target. Typical examples of inspected targets include boilers, pressure vessels, transformers, oil and gas sectors, machinery and equipment, and food processes.

The article specifically focuses on the role of Inspection Bodies in ensuring quality & competency of bodies in supply technical cluster specifically to City Gas Distribution. The City Gas Distribution (CGD) is the last component of the Natural Gas value chain delivering Natural Gas to end users in the town and cities to meet in demand for a cleaner and more efficient, economical and environment friendly energy source.
One of the primary benefits of accreditation is its role in ensuring safety. Natural gas, while a clean and efficient fuel, can pose significant risks if not handled properly. Accredited CGD operators undergo stringent assessments of their safety protocols, infrastructure, and emergency response capabilities. This results in a safer operating environment for both employees and the public, reducing the likelihood of accidents and minimizing their impact if they occur.

The Inspection Bodies seeking accreditation for Inspection comply with the requirements as specified in the international standard ISO/IEC 17020:2012 “Conformity assessment – Requirements for the operation of various types of bodies performing inspection” and other requirements. The National Accreditation Board for Certification Body (NABCB) provides accreditation to various conformity bodies in Scope sector 26 (Gas Supply as per IAF ID1:2014) that demonstrates sound capacity to conduct inspections based on three categories Type A, Type B, Type C. NABCB plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety and quality of the CGD system via accrediting various inspection bodies such as Bureau Veritas, Tata Projects Ltd., SGS India, TÜV SÜD South Asia etc. in India. The Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) acts as a regulator that allows Technical Standards and Specifications including Safety Standards (T4S) audits according to Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board Act, 2006.

Challenges and Opportunities
While accreditation brings numerous benefits to the CGD sector, it also poses certain challenges. Maintaining accreditation requires ongoing investment in staff training, equipment, and quality management systems, which can be resource-intensive for smaller inspection bodies. Furthermore, keeping pace with evolving technologies, regulatory frameworks, and industry best practices necessitates continuous improvement and adaptation.
However, these challenges also present opportunities for innovation, collaboration, and knowledge sharing among stakeholders to drive excellence in CGD.

Way Forward
The accreditation of inspection bodies is crucial for elevating the quality, safety, and dependability of city gas distribution infrastructure and operations. Through adherence to globally acknowledged standards and optimal practices, accredited inspection bodies offer assurance to regulators such as PNGRB, investors, and the public that CGD networks are engineered, built, and managed to the utmost standards of excellence and safety. This endeavor not only aligns with India’s pursuit of Sustainable Development Goals 7, 11, and 13 but also reinforces the nation’s commitments to climate action as outlined in its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).