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.

As part of the Strategic Plan through to 2022, the Snamtec (Tomorrow’s Energy Company) project has been launched, which aims to speed up the innovative capacity of Snam and its assets to make the most of the opportunities offered by

the evolution of the energy system. The project is focussed on four areas:

  • greater operating effectiveness;
  • reduction of methane emissions;
  • investments in the energy transition;
  • growing attention to innovation and the strengthening of distinctive skills.

Below is a report on the research and development activities launched during previous years, which have continued or concluded during the year and the new projects with potential impact on various areas of the company’s operations.

Gas metering

Alternative tools – During the course of 2018 the gradual introduction to the transmission network of instruments to measure the quality of gas alternative to the gas chromatograph, in order to measure the higher calorific value, relative density and carbon dioxide content of natural gas, was continued. In particular, as part of this initiative, a project for the technological adaptation of the fuel gas measurement at the storage plants was started, which involves the installation of quality analysers and the automation and remote reading of the main measurement and reserve measurement. In 2018, activities continued on the adjustment of the measures used for the quality parameters of the gas installed on the network, with the aim of guaranteeing the monitoring and remote management of the devices.

Forecast demand – With the start of the thermal year (01 October 2018), new models have begun applying for forecasting the gas demand, based on the use of machine learning methods that, by improving the neural network algorithms used previously, allow for the suitable management of the large quantity of information available. The objective is to improve the quality of the forecast, subject to an incentive scheme by the ARERA.

Estimation of natural gas emissions – Collaboration continued within the European research group GERG (European Gas Research Group,, involving other European natural gas transporters and distributors, with particular reference to the project for the evaluation of two methods for estimating the natural gas emissions expected at an international level and to the project for the study of potential impacts, along the entire gas supply chain, of the trace chemical components in the biomethane in order to create the conditions for the safe development of biomethane as a source of gas in the transport network. In 2018, a study was launched dedicated to the analysis of potential impacts, on the whole of the gas chain, of the chemical components present in traces in biomethane, with the aim of verifying and effectively coping with any operative problems for all operators involved.

Governance and monitoring of the network and plants

Remote control – In 2018, the study of the Smart Tel project continued, with the aim of analysing the requirements of the acquisition processes and the management of data relating to the control and operation of the network, of increasing its effectiveness levels and identifying the best supporting technologies of the whole remote-controlled process.

Safety – In gas storage, following a trial conducted on site, in 2018, installation was completed of phonometric systems to record any accidental leaks at plants and to enable quick and effective blocking measures.

During the year, initiatives were taken for fire protection of the control rooms, panels rooms and technical rooms of the plants, so as to install suitable fire detection and extinguishing systems. The project will be completed in 2019.

The project has also been launched to replace the plant safety management systems and new SIL (Safety Integrity Level) certified electronic systems that will involve the installation of the new systems at the compression plants of Brugherio and Settala in 2019.


Monitoring of the compression units – A system has been developed for the acquisition and display of the main operating and monitoring data of the compression units. This interface will enable various operators to better manage activities, so as to improve the reliability of plants and reduce the consumption of fuel gas and gas emissions into the atmosphere.


Electrocompressors – In 2018, a preliminary feasibility study was started for the introduction of electrocompressors into the storage sites, with the aim of improving plant management, guaranteeing greater flexibility and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


Cogeneration – During the year, works were started for the installation of a trigeneration plant in the Gallese plant. The innovative system will allow for the production of heat, electricity and cooling for internal use.

Physical integrity of infrastructures

Collaboration with EPRG – Collaboration continued with the EPRG (European Pipeline Research Group, The EPRG is an association which researches pipeline-related topics and counts Europe's biggest gas transportation and pipeline manufacturing companies among its members, and of which Snam is a member. This group manages projects (broken down into three major areas: Design, Material and Corrosion) with the aim of constantly improving the knowledge and management of the integrity of gas pipelines throughout their life cycle (pipe manufacturing, pipeline construction and operation).


Electrical protection – In 2018, the project for innovating the electrical protection system continued, aimed at experimenting in the field of equipment and operational solutions based on the results of the study conducted in 2016.


Geochemical and micro seismic monitoring – As regards storage, with regard to the new projects for the operation of deposits in conditions of overpressure and the strengthening of monitoring systems, work continues on the construction and installation of geochemical and micro seismic monitoring prototypes.


In 2018, Stogit focused its attention on activities aimed at monitoring microseismicity, by upgrading its networks to standards of technological excellence. Among the operations aimed at guaranteeing high-quality performance, the development of a new automatic data management and processing system, active since October 2017, is worthy of mention; in 2018, this will be rolled out to six concessions. The automatic analysis system has also been integrated with the national seismic network, reducing uncertainty in events location. In addition to these, in the concessions of Settala and Ripalta, two surface micro seismic networks have been developed, to integrate the works for the installation of micro seismic detection equipment completed in 2011.

Maintenance and checking of networks

Revision of maintenance processes – The execution phase of the “Gas Transportation Network Asset Maintenance System” was continued, which is aimed specifically at completely overhauling work processes and regulations related to the transportation network, compression stations, metering and remote control plants. This through identifying of the needs for the evolution of the professional model of the resources and of the technological and ICT tools used to carry out the maintenance activities. In particular, in 2017 the Roll Out of the Asset Implementation and Management systems for the network was completed and in 2018, the Pilot of the Asset Implementation and Management Systems of the compression plants continued.


Experimentation with leak detection – The trial of a system aimed at identifying and locating gas leaks along the transport network, based on the analysis of the pressure waves and the detection of possible perturbations and their propagation time, continued.


Experimentation on air flyover checks – For the purpose of evaluating the existence of technologies which are useful for the improvement of air flyover controls, trial operations were begun on two themes: assessment of the current satellite detection technologies available and participation in the trial operations carried out by ENAV and ENAC on the development of the flight infrastructure in the BVLOS mode of drones.

New businesses

Innovative use of existing infrastructures – In 2018, a working party was launched dedicated to the sharing of information and experience on the matter of the innovative use of existing infrastructures in connection with their capacity to transport (and potentially store) gases other than natural gas, with the ultimate aim of assessing the impacts in the various business areas and identifying practical solutions to the problems encountered.


The Hydrogen working party was structured into various task forces, including the metering task force, for which, amongst others, the following specific areas of investigation/competence have been identified:


  • identification of the impacts of hydrogen on the equipment used to measure volume (meters) and quality of gas (gas chromatographs, quality analysers);
  • verification of the conformity of the natural gas and hydrogen mixture with the technical specifications of the quality of gas, where the source of natural gas considered and the percentage of hydrogen mixed vary.
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