Innovators from across the utilities will be getting their teeth into tomorrow’s technologies at Utility Week Live on 17 and 18 May. Gas Transmission Innovation Manager Tamsin Kashap explains why the event is significant – and shares the latest on the robots, renewables and metering solutions that she’ll be showcasing.
The flow of new ideas is essential for us to move forward as a business. In Gas Transmission, we’re confronting some significant challenges, including changes to network operations, tough environmental targets and ageing assets. So it’s essential we push our powers of innovative thinking to the limit.
One thing I’ve learned about innovation is that it rarely emerges from a single person. The best ideas are born through collaboration. When we look outside our own area of expertise and connect with different people with different perspectives, that’s when inspiration arrives.
That’s why Utility Week Live is such a fantastic event. It brings together more than 150 innovators from across the UK’s utility industries, broadening the playing field and allowing us to learn and be inspired by each other.
The event is also a fantastic stage for us to showcase and share all the cutting-edge solutions that we’re working on in National Grid. This year, we’ll be focusing on four key areas of work. Let’s take a closer look at them and explore what we’re doing, why they’re important for our business and stakeholders, and how we’ll be engaging with visitors at the event.
1. Project GRAID
What is it? A world first in robotics. We’re developing a device that can inspect the condition of previously inaccessible, high-pressure, complex gas pipework – from the inside. We need to take action now because these assets are coming towards the end of a 40-year design life. By inspecting them accurately, we’ll be able to manage, maintain and replace them more efficiently.
What’s the latest? The project is split into five stages and scheduled for completion in 2018. We’ve successfully completed stage one and have developed a preferred design for the robot, which exists as a 3D-printed model. We’re in the process of developing all of its specific components, such as the drive, communication, vision and sensory systems, with offline trials set to begin later this year.
How will it be showcased at Utility Week Live? The latest prototype robot will be on display as a 3D print. We’re expecting GRAID to get a lot of attention from across the industry, because it really pushes the boundaries of robotic technology in extreme environments.
Why is it important to National Grid and its stakeholders? At full operational capacity, GRAID is likely to save around £60m over a 20-year period – and more than 2,000 tonnes of carbon every year.
2. Metering validation assessment tool
What is it? Our Gas Transmission business has limited ownership of metering equipment on the system, with the majority owned by distribution companies and other third party customers. The responsibility for validating readings falls on these meter owners. Although we’ve always received copies of meter validation records, the different formats that they’re submitted in makes efficient analysis and identification of meter errors more difficult. Through this project, we’re developing an app for tablets and smartphones, called NGage, which will standardise the way these tests are carried out. It will be issued free of charge to meter owners and companies.
What’s the latest? The app is currently going through customer testing. We expect it to be freely available later this year – probably late summer.
How will it be showcased at Utility Week Live? We’ll be running a test version of the app on the stand, so visitors can experience the software and its features for themselves.
Why is it important to National Grid and its stakeholders? It could save up to £4m in unaccounted for gas and improve the way Gas Transmission manages data supplied from the networks.
3. Renewable power kiosk
What is it? We have more than 200 manually operated block valve sites on our network, which we use to isolate sections of pipe in an emergency or during maintenance. So if there’s an issue, technicians are sent to site to physically close those valves. This project is about upgrading sites so they can be isolated at the touch of a button. The renewable power kiosk is our solution. It allows someone in the control room to send a signal to site that closes the valve. And by being powered by solar, wind and a certain amount of battery power, we’ll also eliminate the need to bring expensive power connections into those sites.
What’s the latest? We ran a trial of the kiosk over the winter and it worked really well. We’re looking to begin rolling it out in the next few months.
How will it be showcased at Utility Week Live? We’ll have a scale model of a kiosk on the stand for visitors to explore.
Why is it important to National Grid and its stakeholders? The kiosk will save on the manpower, time, travel costs and carbon emissions required to get people to site to operate valves manually. By powering them with renewable energy, we’re also avoiding the cost of installing a power supply, which would be more than £40k for each kiosk.
4. Measurement and mitigation of vibrations
What is it? Vibrations caused by the way our compressor engines operate have the potential to damage the more delicate sections of pipework that are connected to our main pipelines. These include instrument stabbings, which are the sections that connect the main pipeline to pressure transmitters and temperature instruments. To reduce the risk to these pipes, we’ve been looking at new techniques for measuring vibrations and new methods to reduce the risk of failures. We’re exploring a variety of options including the use of fibre optic gauges to measure pipework vibration, wireless connections between instruments to reduce the amount of cabling required to monitor problems, and the use of new materials that can help reduce the amount of resonance and vibration in our pipework.
What’s the latest? We’ve carried out theoretical and laboratory work and are now moving on to field testing some of the elements mentioned above.
How will it be showcased at Utility Week Live? We’re exhibiting a section of pipe on the stand that will vibrate, providing a simple conceptual demonstration of the issue for visitors.
Why is it important to National Grid and its stakeholders? The traditional method for addressing serious vibration issues is to do a site redesign, which is hugely complicated and expensive. Once we’ve had the results of our site trials, we’ll look to bring new technologies into full operation and we expect them to deliver significant cost and safety improvements.
So that’s how the land lies in Gas Transmission innovation as we drive forward improvements in the way we do business. But the very nature of innovation is it never stands still and we’re always keen to hear about new ideas from potential partners. If you have an innovation idea, send it to us at: box.InnovationTransmission@nationalgrid.com
And don’t miss our annual innovation summary which will be published at the end of July
Find out more about Project GRAID here: www.nationalgridconnecting.com/raising-the-bar-for-robotics/