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Gas innovation in full flow

As National Grid Gas Transmission (NGGT) releases its Innovation Annual Summary, Phil Sheppard, Director of the Gas Transmission Owner (GTO), reflects on a year where customers and consumers saw their return from innovation reach £8.6m.

Innovation is integral to the success of our Gas Transmission business. I’m proud of the fact that we’ve created a culture where bright ideas are consistently transformed into innovation projects that deliver real and measurable business improvements.

Nurturing these new ideas is important for so many reasons. It helps us become more efficient at what we do, which minimises costs for energy consumers. It allows us to keep our energy supply secure in the face of a changing energy market.

We can grow greener, faster, and play a decisive role in decarbonising our industry. We’re able to improve our customers’ experience and safety across the board, too.

The way we innovate is through a broad pipeline of projects, which are partially funded by regulator Ofgem. Through its RIIO-T1 price control, the regulator supports two innovation funding mechanisms, Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) and Network Innovation Competition (NIC).

This structure has allowed us to build a portfolio of more than 100 projects – and invest more than £18m in NIA and more than £11m in NIC projects. Some 39 projects were live this year and we made exciting progress in many of them. Not least by bringing obsolete components back to life through 3D printing, revolutionising cyber security on our compressor control systems and unlocking the incredible potential of unmanned drones.

Adding value – and measuring it

This year, we really raised the bar on how we measure the value we deliver from innovation. You may remember that last year we published our first ever Innovation Value Report, where we carefully measured the positive impact our projects were having for customers.

This year, we embedded the process of tracking value across the business. As a result, we calculated that innovation has delivered more than £8.6m in value so far, bringing £4 of value for every £1 invested. We believe that’s a good result for our customers and consumers – and we expect the value of these innovations to continue to grow in the future.

I’m proud of the fact that we’ve created a culture where bright ideas are consistently transformed into innovation projects.

- Phil Sheppard, Director of the Gas Transmission Owner (GTO)

Our Valve Sealant Line Grouted Tee is a great example. The technology is helping us repair corroded valves quicker and safer. It’s saved more than £800k – and 1,500 tonnes of CO2 – so far.

A switch to high-efficiency gearboxes, which we use on our valves to control gas flow, is also significantly reducing the time and cost of inspecting, and repairing non-critical valves on the network.

Highlights from our projects

I invite you to download our Innovation Annual Summary, which paints a complete picture of the work we’ve done this year. The document takes a close look at some of the 39 NIA projects from the 2017/18 portfolio, as well as our two NIC projects.

Among the highlights has been Project GRAID (Gas Robotic Agile Inspection Device), which achieved some remarkable milestones this year. Our robot, which we designed to inspect previously unreachable parts of the high-pressure network, proved its strength and endurance in punishing offline tests. The team’s now focused on bringing this incredible piece of kit on to the live network, during trials at Bacton and Pannal.

Project CLoCC (Customer Low Cost Connections), meanwhile, moved towards its closing stages. Three years ago, the project started its bold journey to reduce connection costs to the National Transmission System (NTS) by half and cut the time involved from three years to less than one.

The project team has worked hard to meet those goals. They’ve developed an online customer connections portal, a range of standardised connection designs and new commercial processes that reduce barriers to connecting for gas customers. So from the end of October, when the project closes, our network will be a more viable option for a new generation of gas customers.

Rising to the challenge

Our project progress doesn’t stop there. We’ve also been working to make welding safer and testing how unmanned drones could help us manage the network in a safer, more efficient way.

We’ve been developing more cost-effective ways to control noise from our pipes, investigating new risk-modelling techniques to help us make sounder long-term investment decisions, and trialling new tools to maintain our pipes in a more cost-effective, efficient and sustainable way. It’s a wide-ranging mix that has huge potential to meet challenges both within our business and across the wider gas industry.

Our ambition for 2018/19 is to continue to develop a dynamic spread of projects which bring real value to consumers, our customers, stakeholders and the wider industry, and are aligned to the Gas Network Innovation Strategy that we published this year.

We’ll continue to focus on putting innovation into action across the business and to make it as valuable as we can to as many people as possible. We’ll stay committed to sharing best practice across the industry and deliver a safe, reliable and efficient network that benefits gas consumers across the UK.

Download Gas Transmission’s Innovation Annual Summary.