The latest raft of utility industry innovation includes a new apprenticeship collaboration for Utility Warehouse, a claimed ‘world first’ for National Grid and Hitachi Energy, and plans for a new hydrogen hub in Southampton.

Funding approved for 15 RAPID schemes

Ring-fenced funding for 15 major projects has been approved by Ofwat through the Regulators Alliance for Progressing Infrastructure Development (RAPID).

As reported by Utility Week, the alliance – comprising Ofwat, the Environment Agency (EA) and the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) – has highlighted the need for changes to regulatory and commercial frameworks relating to multi-regional projects and launched a consultation to assess what issues may hinder progress.

The schemes being backed address mounting environmental and societal challenges that are forecast to create a water deficit of 3,500Ml/day by 2050. Large scale strategic supply solutions have been developed to prevent water shortages, protect the environment and meet wider societal needs.

Affinity, Anglian, Cambridge (South Staffs), Severn Trent, Southern, South West, Thames, United Utilities and Wessex have collaborated on the schemes to move resources from areas of surplus to water-stretched parts of the country.

As specified in PR19, the nine companies will receive £500 million ring-fenced funding.

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Utility Warehouse and Cambridge Spark to offer tailored apprenticeships

Multiservice firm Utility Warehouse has announced a new partnership with Cambridge Spark to offer tailored apprenticeships to its tech team members, thereby equipping them with data science and AI skills to tackle new, industry-wide, challenges.

Cambridge Spark will provide Utility Warehouse with programs to meet the specific demands of data analysts, data engineers, and software developers – skills which it claims will be critical to navigating a diverse data ecosystem and implementing AI solutions.

“The utilities sector is seeing a paradigm shift fueled by the pandemic and the UK Energy crisis,” Dr Didier Vila, chief data and AI officer at Utility Warehouse said. “Through our partnership with Cambridge Spark, we are looking to upskill colleagues so they can contribute and shape the Utility Warehouse digital transformation and our ‘Scaling AI’  journey.

“The Cambridge Spark partnership is not only an efficient and sustainable way to develop our talent pool but also to attract and retain colleagues for the benefit of our partners, customers and ultimately our stakeholders.”

National Grid and Hitachi Energy announce ‘world first’ SF6 collaboration

National Grid has partnered with Hitachi Energy in a pilot project at Richborough Substation in Kent to develop and deploy a solution to replace greenhouse gas sulphur hexafluoride or SF6 – a gas commonly used to prevent short circuits – with a greener alternative.

Using a fluoronitrile-based gas mixture, Hitachi Energy’s EconiQTM retrofill solution allows the replacement of SF6 in gas-insulated busbars without changing the equipment, thus avoiding the environmental impact and cost of replacing components which are otherwise fit for further use.

The world’s first SF6 replacement product for installed gas-insulated switchgear at Richborough forms part of National Grid’s ambition to halve its SF6 emissions by 2030, by eliminating nearly six tonnes of SF6 emissions – equivalent to taking more than 100,000 cars off the road – and removing all SF6 gas from electrical assets by 2050.

Anglian trials IoT monitoring for sewer vacuum systems

As reported by Utility Week, Anglian Water has begun monitoring sewer vacuum systems with internet of things (IoT) technology to reduce pollution from blockages in its networks.

Working with PSI Technologies, the proof-of-concept trial will enable technicians to respond quickly to incidents in the vacuum system before any spillages occur.

Anglian chose a sewer in Lincolnshire made up of 44 chambers to trial the system, which will be the first time the company employed an IoT network to monitor underground assets.

Flood level and pressure sensors were installed in hard-to-reach locations to make data collection possible.

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ExxonMobil, SGN, and Green Investment Group sizing up new hydrogen hub

On 8 December, gas distribution network SGN announced that it reached a deal with oil and gas giant ExxonMobil and Macquirie’s Green Investment Group (GIG) to explore the potential use of hydrogen and carbon capture to cut emissions in the Southampton industrial cluster.

An initial feasibility study by SGN and GIG revealed the annual hydrogen demand from the cluster – home to ExxonMobil’s Fawley Refinery and Petrochemical Complex – could rise to as much as 37,000 GWh by 2050, including the heating demand of 800,000 homes across the south of England.

The study added that an increase in the use of hydrogen paired with carbon capture would not only cut emissions in the area’s industrial sector but stimulate the local economy through the conversion of the natural gas network, while helping reduce emissions from domestic heating and transport.

According to ExxonMobil production could commence as soon as 2030 once the technical and commercial feasibility of plans are confirmed.

“Hydrogen will be key in our journey to net zero, providing a reliable, affordable and practical supply of clean energy to multiple sectors whilst ensuring security of supply,” Angus McIntosh, director of energy futures at SGN, said.

“The creation of hydrogen hubs in and around industry is a great way of achieving scaled hydrogen demand and creating hydrogen economies.”

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