Innovation for business development
The Group’s strategic evolution in an increasingly complex and challenging context will require it to rely more heavily on developing innovation and on the good use of technological assets to ensure that it makes the most of what has already been achieved, as well as developing innovative solutions, as a support for and source of business development.
During the course of the year, various research and development activities launched in previous years were either continued or completed. At the same time, some new projects were launched with a potential impact on various areas of corporate operations.
A campaign was carried out to test alternative gas quality metering tools to chromatographs, based on an experimentation protocol set out by the Polytechnic University of Milan. Specifically, test campaigns were concluded in 2016 to check the performance of these tools in terms of measuring heating value, volumetric mass and carbon dioxide content. In the light of the positive results of the experiments conducted, these tools are gradually being introduced into the transportation network.
Still in the area of gas metering, technical activities were completed for the metering project that involve the acquisition of metering plants near the transportation network redelivery points, and the subsequent modernisation to the highest technological standards with a view to improving the availability and reliability of the energy metering data passing through the transportation network redelivery points.
In terms of gas storage, in 2016, following the snecessary trials conducted over the two previous years, the installation of clap-on type ultrasound natural gas metering systems was concluded at two stations.
The Company continued its collaboration with the European Gas Research Group (GERG, ) and other European natural gas transporters and distributors, with reference in particular to the project for evaluating methods of estimating natural gas emissions, which was concluded by evaluating real gas leak measurements. Still in the area of the GERG, Snam Rete Gas is taking part in a research project looking into the potential impacts, on the entire gas chain, of chemical components present in traces in biomethane in order to create the conditions for the safe development of biomethane as a gas injection source in the transportation network.
Governance and monitoring of the network and plants
The “Remote Control Systems Development” project continued in 2016, with the aim of ensuring the technological development of field apparatus and the methods through which they are connected and managed, in order to upgrade the administration and monitoring of the transportation network.
Specifically, the project aims to ensure: (i) the technological updating of the field apparatus for the acquisition of technical and process data; (ii) the standardisation of transmission protocols and acquisition systems; (iii) the technological development of the Snam Rete Gas digital terrestrial network; and (iv) the development of monitoring and supervision systems.
In gas storage, following a trial conducted on site, a project was launched to install phonometric systems to record any accidental leaks at plants and enable quick and effective blocking measures. In 2016 installation activities at 6 stations were concluded. The last installation is expected to be completed in 2017
The Company continued its collaboration with the research projects of the European Pipeline Research Group (EPRG ), together with major European operators in gas transportation and pipeline production, concerning:
- the study of a new model to assess the integrity of pipes subjected to mechanical damage;
- preparation of criteria for the non-conservative assessment of geometric irregularities along the circumferential soldering;
- an inventory of buried steel pipes more than 40 years old.
Additionally, several projects of special interest were completed in 2016: an experimental assessment of the resistance of curves created in the field using cold bending and laboratory tests to simulate loss of adhesion for external facings.
Still in 2016, a project was launched involving the protection of the transportation network from corrosion. The activity, carried out in conjunction with the Polytechnic University of Milan, aimed to identify opportunities for the technological improvement and adaptation of the electrical protection system currently used. At the end of this study, a pilot project will be launched in 2017 to test operating equipment and solutions in the field.
For Storage, as far as the new operational projects involving deposits in excess pressure conditions and the upgrading of monitoring systems are concerned, the activities for the construction and installation of geochemical and microseismic monitoring prototypes are ongoing.
Specifically, with regard to the trials with operational projects involving deposits in excess pressure conditions, currently up to a maximum of 110% of the initial field pressure, installation activities are continuing for microseismic monitoring equipment (surface networks and shaft sensors) and also for geochemical monitoring (surface stations).
In 2016, Stogit focused its attention on activities aimed at monitoring microseismicity, by upgrading its networks to standards of technological excellence. Among the activities aimed at guaranteeing high-quality performance, the development of a new automatic data management and processing system called AMPIS (Automatic Microseismic Processing and Interpretation System) is particularly worthy of mention. It is expected to go live in 2017 and will gradually be rolled out to all concessions.
Maintenance and checking of networks
The execution phase of the “Gas Transportation Network Asset Maintenance System” was launched, which is aimed specifically at completely overhauling work processes and regulations related to the transportation network, compression stations, storage, plants, metering and remote control. Specifically, during the year, the operators and technicians responsible for maintenance and metering activities were equipped with next-generation devices that use new maps and show real-time additional information about the surrounding environment (e.g. plant) using “augmented reality” technologies. In 2016 the development of the project continued, with the goal of activities being completed at the end of 2017.
Lastly, a trial was launched in 2016 on a system aimed at identifying and locating gas leaks along the network of approximately 33,000 km of pipelines that transport natural gas in Italy. The system is based on the analysis of pressure waves and the detection of possible disturbances and their propagation times.
Efficiency of plants
Based on the study for the application of high-efficiency cogeneration systems (HEC) in compression stations, in conjunction with the Polytechnic University of Milan, the planning for the construction of two trigeneration systems at the Gallese and Istrana compression stations was completed during 2016. These systems allow electricity self-production of heat recovery plants to support thermal utilities and station cooling. The systems are catalogued as high-efficiency cogeneration plants that benefit from obtaining “white certificates”.