Low Cost, Low Carbon

Solutions and best practices deployed by Cadent Gas

Cadent Gas is the UK’s largest gas distribution network. The company manages a network of more than 80,000 miles of pipes, most of them underground. They transport gas to 11 million customers. Cadent is deploying innovative technologies for safe and reliant gas distribution in the UK. Besides, the company is working on minimising the environmental damage by switching to greener energy sources.

A look at some of the key technology initiatives by Cadent Gas…

Use of drone technology

A project to explore the use of drone technology in network infrastructure inspection is set to begin trials on gas and electricity networks in the UK. The three-year programme, which began in May 2018, is coordinated by the Energy Industries Council, led by Wales & West Utilities in collaboration with Cadent, National Grid Gas Transmission, Northern Gas Networks, Northern Powergrid, Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks and UK Power Networks, and supported by Connected Places Catapult. It is a first-of-its kind project in the UK, and a designated Government Pathfinder Project. Under the initiative, the application of drone technology is being explored. It transform the way the industry carries out essential maintenance tasks. The trials are being conducted by Wiltshire-based aviation specialist, Callen-Lenz, in segregated airspace on electricity and gas networks. The aim is to establish a regularised operating framework for the use of drones, beyond the visual line of sight.

Gas-bots for pipeline repairs

In a first-of-its kind initiative, Cadent has used a gas-bot to repair its aging gas mains in Hertfordshire. Supplied by ULC Pipeline Robotics, the CISBOT (cast iron joint sealing robot) requires small excavations to enable it to enter and leave the gas mains through a special insertion tube. Once inside the gas mains, it is remotely controlled by operators working in an above-ground vehicle or eco-friendly cabin powered by solar panels. The robot travels along the pipe and injects a special sealant into aging pipe joints. This process limits the risk of future gas escapes and can also extend the life of a gas main by several decades. The robot is capable of working inside live gas mains with the gas still flowing. Thus, local gas supplies do not need to be disrupted. Although it is currently not suitable for every type of gas maintenance or repair job, CISBOT is being increasingly employed by Cadent Gas across its networks. The technology has previously proven successful in London, including in The Strand and Oxford Street.

Minimising gas leaks

Cadent Gas and TTP have been working together to develop new and better gas conditioning equipment to reduce gas leakage with the help of TTP’s TouchSpray technology. TouchSpray uses ultrasonic vibration of a perforated membrane to create liquid droplets. Fully controllable, low power and determinate, TouchSpray is ideal for creating a defined output of fog-sized droplets. Besides, in November 2020, Smart Compliance Limited announced a collaborative, fully funded innovation project with Cadent.

As part of the collaboration, the companies will work to design and manufacture a Smart Methane Gas Detector, capable of being deployed in all Cadent Gas environments. The project will link into Smart Compliance’s existing database, stored on the Smart Compliance secure Dashboard, adding an extra level of safety on the premises where the gas is used for cooking or heating purposes. The portal allows Cadent access to individual accounts with details of alarms, tampers and faults displayed on the screen in real time.

Other technology initiatives

As part of Cadent’s ServiBoost project, the company is delivering a unique pressure-boosting device that can be installed at the customer’s emergency control valve. Trials have shown that ServiBoost can maintain a gas pressure that is safe for customers, without the need for costly and disruptive work on the service pipe. This will ensure continuous supply of gas to consumers. Cadent has also been using the Top Tee Siphon Adaptor as an innovative way to remove water from gas pipes without disrupting the gas supply. The device can be installed at any point on a polyethylene network quickly with minimal excavation. MP SMARTester is the company’s latest solution for testing gas pressures as part of its mains replacement work. The Bluetooth SMARTester solution allows Cadent to minimise the time spent digging the roads. The sophisticated technology allows operatives to record test pressures remotely and make educated decisions based on real-time information.

Switch to cleaner energy

Cadent has been focusing on switching to greener and cleaner sources of energy for households in the UK to reduce CO2 emissions in the country. HyDeploy is a pioneering hydrogen energy project led by Cadent to provide hydrogen to households across the UK. Since November 2019, it has been providing blended hydrogen to 100 ordinary homes on the Keele University campus. HyDeploy has successfully demonstrated that blending up to 20 per cent volume of hydrogen with fossil gas is a safe and greener alternative to the gas currently used. The gas distributor has also urged the government to introduce blended hydrogen (100 per cent) across the UK for heating and cooking, in the near future, in order to reduce emissions to a minimum. The company is also working to convert heavy good vehicles and buses to run on hydrogen. Cadent has recently launched its first chatbot focused on hydrogen, using the Google cloud technology. It has been designed to answer questions from the general public about hydrogen, its role in sustainability, and Cadent’s hydrogen and green gas projects.

Biomethane is seen as playing an immensely important role in the country’s plans to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Cadent is already involved in the supply of biomethane gas to households in Britain. The company has over 30 biomethane production plants connected to its network (as of mid-2020), providing enough gas to meet the energy requirements up to 243,000 homes. Cadent is also involved in the building of new bio-CNG fuelling stations.

Future plans

In March 2020, Cadent agreed to issue the UK’s first transition bond, a 12-year Euro 500 million bond, to invest in the retrofitting of its gas distribution networks. The move is part of the company’s commitment to help deliver a low-carbon economy. Cadent will use the proceeds from the bond issue to replace existing pipelines with ones that can carry hydrogen and other low-carbon gases, and reduce methane leakage. Between now and 2032, the company will continue to invest in its gas mains replacement programme. This work has been mandated to improve safety while reducing methane emissions. By the end of the programme, the company’s distribution networks will mainly consist of plastic (polyethylene) pipes, which can carry a wider range of gases including hydrogen. These pipes require significantly lower maintenance than existing materials, thus delivering a low-cost, low-carbon network.