Innovation and technology
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.
For Snam Rete Gas, it is very important to apply the best available technologies to reduce the level of risk related to its activities and to restore the areas affected by the construction of new plants and gas pipelines
The continuous development of technical expertise and the constant search for greater efficiency are elements that strongly characterise Stogit’s know-how and drive the company to constantly seek new solutions for the storage sector
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.
A sustained effort in many directions, which led to the realization of important projects in order to constantly increase the quality of the offered services: from the renewal of critical infrastructure such as the new Data Center – one of the most advanced in Europe – to the investments in hardware and software technology such as the application Gas to Go.
For Snam Rete Gas, it is very important to apply the best available technologies to reduce the level of risk related to its activities and to restore the areas affected by the construction of new plants and gas pipelines. The key technologies used in these areas include:
for the internal inspection of large diameter gas pipelines
The natural gas transmission pipelines are one of the safest and most efficient ways of transporting energy. The underground metal pipelines are coated in a suitable insulating covering that protects them from the aggressive agents in the soil; the protective action of the covering is increased further with the addition of onsite cathodic protection.
To ensure more effective levels of protection, since the early 1980s, Snam Rete Gas has been using a pipeline inspection technique known as “intelligent pig” that allows the evolution of the pipes over time to be monitored. This method consists of inspecting the inside of the pipes using an instrument that is able to identify, locate and measure a series of data with regard to the characteristics or anomalies of the pipes.
Currently, the most widely used intelligent pigs in Snam Rete Gas are those used to monitor any absence of metal in the thickness of the pipe. The instrument is inserted into the pipeline, is extracted at specific points along the pipe, known as “traps,” and is pushed along the pipeline by the pressure of the gas being transported.
>To find out more about our number of inspections, go to the page Service Continuity.
to minimise the impact to areas of significant environmental value and to avoid surface excavations
The use of these technologies in the construction of gas pipelines has many advantages, including:
- the absence of direct interference with the ground
- the reduction of excavation volumes and construction site areas
- ensuring the integrity of pre-existing infrastructures
- limited environmental impact
- no limitations as regards pipe laying depths
- the reduction of execution times and the optimisation of routes.
> To find out more about trenchless technologies, go to the “Trenchless Construction Technologies” section of the Snam Rete Gas website.
to control the external conditions of the pipeline
Underwater maintenance is carried out on the five pipelines that cross the Strait of Sicily and the Strait of Messina, with a combined length of approximately 750 kilometres. Routine inspections are carried out to plan any maintenance work required and to stabilise the pipelines on the sea bed.
External checks are divided mainly into two groups, depending on the type of survey and the type of vessel used (surface or submarine):
- inspections near coastal landing sites
- offshore inspections
In addition, routine aerophotogrammetric inspections of coastal landing sites are carried out and, over time, automatic systems have been put in place for underwater repairs as part of emergency interventions.
For submarine inspections, crewed submersibles have gradually been phased out and replaced by the intensive use of ROVs (Remote Operated Vehicles), wireguided by a surface ship and used as a logistics support and aid to onboard management and maintenance, offering a secure base for data acquisition and processing.
>To find out more about underwater maintenance activities, go to the “Underwater Maintenance Activities” section.
In the Panigaglia regasification plant, which is equipped with a programmable logic system, GNL Italia uses an automatic distributed control system.
The LNG is unloaded from LNG carriers and sent to storage tanks via a pipeline that crosses the plant’s 500 metre long jetty.
The storage section consists of two vertical cylindrical tanks containing submerged pumps to circulate the LNG which, once extracted from the storage tanks via the submerged pumps, is then pressurised and sent to the submerged combustion vaporisers for regasification.
The vapour produced by the tanks is recovered via an absorption column. Finally, the gas is corrected before being injected into the transmission network.
GNL Italia has started a project to modernise and upgrade the plant which, in addition to ensuring even higher standards of safety and operational efficiency, will help increase the flexibility of the natural gas supply in Italy.
The continuous development of technical expertise and the constant search for greater efficiency are elements that strongly characterise Stogit’s know-how and drive the company to continuously seek new solutions and adapt techniques from other sectors for use in the storage sector.
The research areas are defined as follows:
- development i.e. technological innovation in the development of storage reservoirs and the optimisation of physical processes;
- asset management, the calculation instruments and software dedicated to data management and the monitoring of the performance parameters of the storage system;
- ad hoc research projects, such as the Bordolano Project .
The ongoing projects
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, www.gerg.info) 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.
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 www.eprg.net), 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.
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.
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”.
18 April 2017 - 12:20 CEST