Technological innovation and research

During 2009 Snam Rete Gas developed its commitment to identifying new technologies for the safety and efficiency of its transportation network in two major European areas. As part of GERG, “Groupe Européen de Recherches Gazières” (www.gerg.eu), Snam Rete Gas, still chairing the Transmission & Storage Programme Committee during 2009, coordinated the designing of new projects relating to:

  • pipeline control and monitoring;
  • checking and assessing pipeline section integrity;
  • technology transfers from other business segments to gas transportation processes.

Furthermore, also within GERG, a project was completed in coordination with Italgas in the segment of natural gas odorisation. The project had participation from the major European gas distribution companies as well as numerous producers of odorised substances. The results of this project were presented to the Technical Committee (TC 193) of the ISO so that they could be taken into consideration for inclusion in the ISO standards compilation.

As part of EPRG “European Pipeline Research Group” (www.eprg.net), Snam Rete Gas has participated in research projects aimed at improving the integrity and safety of gas transportation pipelines, with particular attention to structural, metallurgical and corrosion aspects.

Furthermore, within the scope of the development and upgrading of natural gas transportation network management systems, during 2009 it continued the activities of benchmarking, with the aim of identifying and comparing, with other European gas transportation companies, the key, shared technical and economic indicators (KPI – Key Performance Indicator).

With reference to distribution activities, during 2009 experimentation was done in the field, with good results, on a new-generation portable laser pointer, of limited weight and easy handling, for locating gas leaks from above-ground facilities or piping. The pointer has ATEX certification (in accordance with European Union Directive 94/9/EC) for operability in potentially hazardous environments. This pointer, besides displaying the typical advantages of laser technology (high selectivity in encountering methane, ability to work even in inclement weather conditions, etc), enables remote determination of the presence of methane even in potentially explosive areas without exposing the personnel involved to risk. The company is presently evaluating the operational use of this device.

Furthermore, Italgas, in response to resolution no. 155/08 of the Electricity and Gas Authority, has started up the “Remote Gas Meters Reading” project to test the remote reading technologies for meters now commercially available for use at home. After a first phase of market surveys, nine different solutions have been selected, eight of which use radio frequency communications and one uses GSM/GPRS technology.

During 2009 about 4,000 devices were installed in the field and are still in the testing phase. Furthermore, the project for updating the technology for high-calibre ultrasound meters for installation at calibration and measurement facilities (REMI) has been continued and a testing campaign has been started, concerning household meters, on an ultrasound meter produced in Japan.