Innovation and technology
As part of the Strategic Plan to 2023, the Snamtec (Tomorrow's Energy Company) project continued with
the goal of accelerating the innovative capacity of Snam and its assets to seize the opportunities offered by the evolution of the energy system.
The innovation of our infrastructure to make it increasingly flexible, digital and intelligent is essential in making Snam a leading player in the energy transition, allowing it to contribute to a new model of sustainable development for the benefit of all stakeholders. The development of cloud technologies, artificial intelligence and machine learning, combined with the skills of our people, are key elements of this evolution.
Executive Vice President Digital Transformation & Technology
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.
Technology and digitalization are two key elements to making Snam one of the global leaders of the energy transition: to achieve this, more resources (1.4 billion investments) have been allocated to innovation and acceleration in the 2023 strategic plan of the new green businesses of SnamTec - Tomorrow's Energy Company project, to increase the group's presence in the biomethane sector, confirm its commitment to sustainable mobility and energy efficiency, and be among the pioneers in the use of hydrogen as an clean energy vector of the future.
The initiatives for technological innovation and digitalization of the grid, together with environmental sustainability and the energy transition, are among the pillars of the SnamTec program. These include, for example, the "Smart Gas" project for plant maintenance through new technologies: the use of drones and satellites for infrastructure monitoring (more than 85% of assets inspected remotely by 2023), real-time measurement of the geological structure of the territory and the forecasting of gas demand through neural networks, will allow the network to be increasingly intelligent, sustainable and connected with the territories, which will in turn improve the safety and effectiveness of maintenance.
Digitization is also a key factor: Snam is developing a "hybrid cloud" system with leading partners such as Microsoft, Cisco and Accenture that will also act as a basis for the development of enabling technologies. From the cloud to edge computing, from artificial intelligence to increasingly capable data transmission networks (fiber, 5G, wifi): the integration of these IoT and machine learning systems will make it possible to transmit, analyze and historicize a 100 times more daily data than is currently possible. Thanks to a higher temporal frequency and greater geographical capillarity and number of captured variables, we will therefore go from around 100 gigabytes a day today to 10 terabytes.
Snam is also continuing to innovate its traditional businesses: thanks to its commitment to technology, it will in fact be possible to reduce methane emissions by 40% by 2025 and direct and indirect CO2 equivalent emissions by 40% by 2030, by making activities increasingly efficient.
For the Transport sector, 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 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.
2019 ongoing projects
As part of the Strategic Plan to 2023, the Snamtec (Tomorrow's Energy Company) project continued with the aim of accelerating the innovative capacity of Snam and its assets to seize the opportunities offered by the evolution of the energy system.
The project is focused on three areas:
- Energy efficiency in the core business and reduction of emissions;
- Innovation and technology;
- Investments for the energy transition;
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 potential repercussions in the various Snam business sectors.
- Remote control: In 2019 activities 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: Initiatives continued for the protection against fire, through vacuum technology, of the plant control rooms. A project was later launched to install similar fire detection/extinguishing systems in the technical rooms of the compression stations.
In the second half of 2019, tests on the surveillance cameras capable of detecting the escape of methanol from the tanks are being conducted at the Ripalta facility. If the results of these tests are positive, this technology will be extended to all facilities where this substance is present.
The replacement of the security management systems was completed in 2019 by installing electronic systems with SIL certification (Safety Integrity Level) at the Brugherio and Settala facilities and the same actions will be carried out in 2020 at the Fiume Treste plant).
- Monitoring of the compression units: In 2019 a project was launched for the modernisation of a telediagnostic system for the compression units through the acquisition of thermodynamic and functional parameters for the future development of predictive analysis aimed at improving performance. In addition, in 2019 a project was completed for the development of a dashboard that collects the main important parameters needed for dispatch for the improved management of the turbochargers.
- Electrocompressors: Research for the introduction of electrocompressors at the compression and thrust systems at storage sites continues, with the goal of improving the management of the systems, guaranteeing greater flexibility and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
- Trigeneration: In 2019 work was completed for commissioning high efficiency trigeneration plants at the Gallese and Istrana compression stations These systems allow the self-production of electricity with internal combustion engines and the recovery of heat and the refrigeration necessary for the users of the stations. The start up of the system at the Gallese station took place in the last quarter of 2019 achieving an energy saving of more than 65% with further improvement margins following the tuning in 2020.
- Treatment systems: Installation of latest generation, high performance equipment with a low environmental impact. The first installation of the new generators at the Fiume Trieste facility is expected from 2020.
- Alternative instruments and quality measurement: Activities continued under the scope of gas quality measurement to adapt the quality meters installed in the network in order to make it possible to remotely monitor and manage equipment. With regard to controlling the quality of the gas injected into the transportation network, a project for the installation of H2O dew point meters and hydrogen sulphide analysers has been launched and is in the process of being implemented.
- Estimation of natural gas emissions: The evaluation of methods for estimating natural gas emissions and research into the potential impacts, throughout the gas supply chain, of chemical components present in traces in biomethane is continuing in order to create the conditions for its safe development in conjunction with the European research group GERG (Groupe Européen de Recherches Gazières, www.gerg.eu).
- Collaboration with EPRG: The collaboration with EPRG (European Pipeline Research Group, www.eprg.net) continued. It is an association that conducts research into 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: The pilot project for innovating the electrical protection system continues. It is 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 microseismic monitoring prototypes. In 2018, Stogit focused its attention on activities aimed at monitoring microseismicity, by upgrading its networks to standards of technological excellence. The experiments, protocols and guidelines for monitoring seismicity, soil deformation and pore pressure were successfully concluded in 2019 at the Minerbio facility.
- Revision of maintenance processes: The “Sistema Manutenzione Asset Rete Trasporto Gas” Project (SMART GAS) continued. It is a corporate initiative aimed at improving the effectiveness of technical-operational processes, for the purpose of an overall overhaul of the working processes and regulations relating to the maintenance of company assets, through the identification of the need to develop the professional model of resources and technological tools used for carrying out maintenance operations. Specifically, the Smart LNG design and realisation phase was launched in 2019 for operations at the Panigaglia LNG terminal. The dematerialisation of the archives in the regional units continued through the eDoc document system which will be fully integrated in Smart gas.
- Experimentation with leak detection: The trial of a system aimed at identif ying and locating gas leaks along the transport network, based on the analysis of the pressure waves and the detection o f possible perturbations and their propagation time, continued.
- Reduction of natural gas emissions into the atmosphere: The initiatives aimed at reducing emissions continued, with the definition, specifically, of all preparatory activities for the implementation of an LDAR programme (Leak Detection & Repair) for measuring and repairing leaks in Snam plants.
- 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 continued 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.
Innovative use of existing infrastructures: The work of the Working group dedicated to sharing information and experience on the issue of the innovative use of existing infrastructures in relation to their capacity to transport (and potentially store) different gases other than natural gas continues, with the ultimate purpose of evaluating the impacts in different areas of the business and identifying practical solutions to the problems encountered.
The following initiatives were also examined under the scope of European associations (Marcogaz):
- Power 2 Gas: the process through which the electricity produced by renewable sources that is surplus to immediate consumption is transformed into hydrogen to be injected directly into the network (limited to the technically-acceptable quantities) or used for the production of synthetic methane (SINGAS) also to be injected into the network and possibly stored later;
- Adsorbed Natural Gas (ANG): this is one of the latest technological developments for the storage of natural gas in tanks. The adsorption of natural gas in a porous sorbent injected into a recipient (tank/canister) takes place at ambient temperature and low pressure (25 - 35 bar).
Besides Snam cooperates with local, national and inernational authorities and takes part in the work of numerous associations and committees, playing an active role and placing its expertise at their disposal in order to promote improvements in various sectors of activity.
|Name of Association|
|A.P.C.E. - Associazione Protezione Corrosioni Elettrolitiche|
|ABC - consorozio procurement e Cost Mgmt|
|ACC - Association of Corporate Counsel|
|AICCP- Associazione Italia-India per la cooperazione fra i due paesi|
|AIEE- Associazione Italiana Economisti dell'Energia|
|AIPSA - Associazione Italiana Professionisti Security Aziendale|
|AIR-Associazione Italiana Investor Relation|
|AISCA – associazione italiana segretari consiglio di amministrazione|
|AITI - Associazione Italiana Tesorieri d'Impresa|
|ANDAF ASS NAZ DIRETTOR AMM E FINANZIARI|
|ANRA - Associazione Nazionale di risk Manager e Responsabili di Assicurazioni Aziendali|
|Anspen Institute Italia|
|Associazioni Industriali Territoriali|
|Associazione italiana auditor|
|ASSOMINERARIA - Associazione Mineraria Italiana|
|ASSONIME - Associazione fra le società italiane per azioni|
|Assogasliquidi-GNL - Federchimica|
|Astrid - Associazione per gli studi e le ricerche sulla riforma delle istituzioni democratiche e sull'innovazione nelle amministrazioni pubbliche|
|BOCCONI - Osservatorio lavori pubblici|
|Business Network - International Integrated Reporting Council|
|C.E.I. - Comitato Elettrotecnico Italiano|
|CDP - Carbon disclosure Project|
|CIG - Comitato Italiano Gas|
|CONSEL - Consorzio ELIS|
|CSR Manager Network|
|CTI - Comitato Termotecnico Italiano|
|Camera di Commercio Italo - Cipriota|
|CEPAS - Ente di Certificazione Professionale|
|CFR - Counsel of Foreign relations|
|CLUSIT - Associazione Italiana per la sicurezza informatica|
|CSIS/ Center for Strategic and International Studies|
|EASEE-GAS - European Association for the Streamlining of Energy-Exchange-Gas|
|EGIG - European Gas Pipeline Incident Data Group|
|Energy Infrastructure Security Network/Swedish Standards Institute|
|ENTSOG - European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas|
|EPRG - European Pipeline Research Group|
|EAGE- European Association of Geoscienties & engineers|
|EEF - European Energy Forum|
|FONDAZIONE SODALITAS - Associazione per lo Sviluppo dell'Imprenditoria nel Sociale|
|FOE - Friends of Europe|
|GII - Gruppo di iniziativa italiana|
|GERG - Groupe Europeen de Recherches Gazieres|
|GIE - Gas Infrastructure Europe|
|GIGNL - Groupe International Des Importateurs de Gaz Natuerl Liquéfié|
|Hellenic Association for Energy Economics (HAEE)|
|HI CARE - Human & Infrastructure Crisis AID & Rescue in Emergency|
|IAI - Istituto Affari Internazionali|
|IATT - Italian Association for Trenchless Technology|
IGU - International Gas Union (in rappresentanza CIG)
|Iscrizione RSPP SRG alla Assoc. Italiana Ambiente Sicurezza (AIAS)|
|ISF - Information Security forum|
|ISPI - Istituto per gli studi di politica internazionale|
|MARCOGAZ - Technical Association of the European Natural Gas Industry (in rappresentanza CIG)|
|MIP - Politecnico di Milano School of Management|
|OIES - Oxford Institute for energies studies|
|Osservatorio sulla regolazione amministrativa e Osservatorio sui contratti pubblici Università Cattolica|
|SPE- Society of Petroleum Engineers|
|UNI - Ente Nazionale Italiano di Unificazione|
|Università Cattolica Sacro Cuore Milano - Osservatorio Regolazione|
|UNSIDER - Ente Italiano di Unificazione Siderurgia|
|WEC - World Energy Council|
|WEF - World Energy Forum|
05 October 2020 - 18:36 CEST