The latest innovation news round-up includes updates on SF6, low carbon concrete and hydrogen tech trials by National Grid, BEIS awarding floating wind innovators close to £32m and British Gas announcing its first mass market air source heat pump.

National Grid announces SF6, low carbon concrete and hydrogen tech trials

National Grid is trialing a pair of projects to tackle sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) leaks from its pipework and introduce cement-free concrete at its Deeside Centre for Innovation in a bid to curb carbon emissions.

Using Rawwater’s M3 Molten Metal Manipulation technology, National Grid employs either a ‘leak extinguisher’ alloy spray or a ‘CollarCast’ – where molten alloy is cast into a custom-made, reusable mould – to stop the gas commonly used in the electricity industry to prevent short circuits from leaking.

On top of this, National Grid is also testing a new, cement-free, concrete mixture called Cemfree, which it claims has a potential carbon footprint 80% lower than conventional alternatives. Two large scale slabs of approximately 50m3 are currently being tested to identify the differences in performance between Cemfree and a conventional concrete.

National Grid has also agreed to trial decarbonisation device Loop as part of what’s claimed to be a world-first bid to boost the amount of hydrogen in the UK gas supply.

Developed by Cambridge-based climate tech firm Levidian – Loop uses plasma technology to separate methane into its constituent atoms – carbon, graphene, and hydrogen – which can either be used immediately or stored for future use.

The project would potentially allow National Grid to reinforce parts of its gas pipe network by using graphene as a corrosion-resistant internal coating, making it more able to carry increased quantities of hydrogen and less likely to crack.

BEIS awards nearly £32m to floating wind innovators

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has awarded £31.6 million to projects innovating in floating offshore wind farm technology, according to Utility Week.

The 11 successful schemes will each receive grants of up £10 million as part of the Floating Offshore Wind Demonstration Programme, sums which will be matched by industry funding and bring total investment to more than £60 million.

The largest beneficiary, a collaboration between SenseWind, Geodis, Xodus Group and the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, will receive £10 million for a project to combine a compact floating foundation with a novel anchoring system and advanced monitoring technology, allowing maintenance to be performed offshore. A 2MW or larger turbine will be demonstrated in UK waters.

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British Gas launches heat pump offering

As reported by Utility Week, British Gas has unveiled its first mass market air source heat pump, with its maiden installation due to take place in the coming weeks.

While homes across the South West will be the first to have the devices installed, the company is targeting a nationwide rollout.

Under its PH Jones brand, Centrica also plans to install heat pumps in social housing, with an aim to fit up to 1,000 in homes in 2022 and 20,000 annually by 2025.

The company is also planning to incorporate Hive heating controls into its proposition later this year, enabling customers to remotely manage their heating.

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Affinity launches digital engagement partnership

Affinity Water has begun a new digital engagement process by introducing conversational SMS “chatbot” messaging in a bid to boost customer engagement rates.

The partnership with Webio, a provider of conversational AI to the utility, financial service and retail industries, will see its platform enable Affinity teams to proactively engage with customers, provide status updates on projects and book appointments for site visits.

“Webio allows us to open another channel of communication that is different to other messaging platforms we’ve seen in the past,” Graham Turk, director of production and supply at Affinity Water said.

“The two-way interaction functionality and simple back-end user interface enables an authentic experience for our customers, which ultimately allows us to respond to them more efficiently, as well as build a more effective understanding of their sentiment.”

Heat pump and battery project kicks off in Scotland

As reported by Utility Week, SP Energy Networks (SPEN) and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) have begun a £5 million project examining how networks can respond to increased demand caused by the electrification of heat.

By 2030 Scotland is expected to see more than a million homes convert to zero carbon heat systems such as heat pumps, creating significantly more demand on the electricity system. As such, Project Re-Heat, an industry first, will be trialed across East Ayrshire and East Dunbartonshire by SP Energy Networks and the Highlands by SSEN.

Funded by £1.26 million from the Scottish Government’s Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme and £1.2 million from Home Energy Efficiency Programme for Scotland among other schemes, the project will see 150 domestic heat pumps, manufactured by Japanese firm Daikin, installed.

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WRSE sets out plans for three new reservoirs in south east

The five regional water resource management groups have this week published their proposed strategies for long term resilience in the face of climate change and population growth.

As outlined by Utility Week, Water Resources South East (WRSE) has proposed three new reservoirs, a desalination plant and five water recycling schemes in the south east of England by 2040.

The measures mark the first phase of its three-step strategy to ensure adequate water supplies in the region over the next 75 years.

Phase one addresses a single scenario which forecasts that, without action, an extra one billion litres of water per day will be needed in the region between 2025 and 2040 due population growth and the effects of climate change.

To reflect the increased uncertainty, phase two, covering the period 2040 to 2060, branches into three scenarios reflecting differing levels of population growth and success in the prior phase.

The preferred path at phase two will be dependent on the outcome of phase one. They similarly branch into nine total scenarios for phase three covering the period 2060 to 2100.

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