This paper addresses one solution to a critical training problem for gas control operators. Gas control training has traditionally been achieved through a apprenticeship dependent upon experienced controllers training younger, newer personnel. In 1987, Equitable Resources' retiring Superintendent of Gas Control Charles "Chuck" Felker realized that ERI was facing a serious decline in the combined years of experience of their gas control personnel, from 225 years in 1980 to just 59 years projected for 1990. Thus ERI began to study and search for ways to improve their system of gas control tralning. In 1988, MindT3ank, Inc., a Pittsburgh interactive simulation company, was contracted to create a simultator/trainer to teach SCADA and pipeline control, ~o~ati omanna gement, and emergency response. This solution addressed the loss of experience by capturing this valuable wisdom within simulation sessions. The creative and technical challenges both EX1 and MindBank faced while producing SOLO (Simulated On-Line Operations) are discussed in detail.


Equitable Resources, Inc. is an integrated energy company generating $500 million in revenues through two segments: Energy Resource and Utility Service. The Energy Resource segment is responsible for the exploration and development of natural gas resources. The Utility Service division purchases, gathers, transports, stores, and distributes natural gas to more than 263,000 retail customers in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Pipeline operations for the transmission and distribution sectors for Pennsylvania and West Virginia are conducted from a central gas control center located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Control of this piping network, with its associated valves, regulators, and compressor stations, is accomplished with a PC-based Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system. At the heart of the SCADA system are nearly 250 telemetered gas pressures, flow and/or digital status data points, as well as 130 valves, regulators, and odoff control circuits. ERI's SCADA contains 800 alarm settings for telemetered data that represent practical operating limits for over '7,000 miles of pipeline. These alarm levels were established by one individual, Howard Shively, over a 40-year career in gas control. To research these alarm levels now, beginning with a blank map, would be an horrendous task, and illustrates the importance of capturing as much knowledge and experience from the departing controllers as possible, so that the younger, newer controllers can benefit from their experience. The SCADA system is manned 24 hours a day by a staff of six full-time and two part-time gas control operators. The two part-time operators are contract employees who retired several years ago under an early retirement program designed to trim operations. Most of the gas controller's job is routine. However, it is the routine nature of the job that creates the training problem. Few operators are fully prepared for emergencies when they do take place. Even under normal circumstances, there are many stressful elements to manage.

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