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Schedulers a critical role in operating a pipeline

by Ryan Rogers | May 18, 2018

Schedulers are a critical part of operating a pipeline because they coordinate with various groups including customers, controllers, maintenance personnel and more. By gathering information from various departments, schedulers are able to develop detailed product origination and delivery plans so that customers receive their shipments at the appropriate time and location. Schedulers must be familiar with the quantity and quality of the product, origin, destination, expected arrival time and optimal route.

The scheduling process begins when customers enter product nominations in a web-based interface between pipeline companies and their customers called Transport4 (T4). This information tells Colonial how much product will be shipped and where it should be delivered.  Schedulers then use a rules-based scheduling program that aggregates information from T4 to help them build a graphic schedule for the control center to follow. The schedule is a printed, color-coded representation of product that displays its volume, rate, estimated delivery time and final destination.  This information is then digitally transmitted to the field and our customers.

Colonial's scheduling team consists of more than 14 people: ten desk/system schedulers and four relief schedulers.  Each desk scheduler is responsible for a different line section and its various markets.  The Relief Schedulers are required to know all desks in order to back-fill as needed. In total, 60 lines and 15 tanks farms are scheduled from Alpharetta. Additionally, the scheduling group administers leased storage movements, Atlanta butane injections, Griffin bio injections, and product transfer orders (PTOs).  Twice a year the schedulers handle an occurrence that impacts us all, Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) transition.  Spring time is particularly challenging because that is when RVP transitions from winter grade to summer gas (high to low RVP).  To remain in compliance with regulatory standards, schedulers must deliver all winter grade product stored in Colonial tank farms before the transition date.  In the fall the transition is from summer back to winter grade.

Similar to an on-call doctor, schedulers must be reachable 24/7/365 in the event a new schedule needs to be re-drawn due to maintenance issues or revised customer needs. This can have a cascading effect on all other planned deliveries. When unexpected changes occur, such as a customer who requests to increase a shipment, the entire day's schedule is impacted.