Big ideas spring from leakage

Utilities companies and networks are rarely out of the news. Price hikes fuelled by uncertainty in financial markets, flooding and droughts caused by ineffective water management, and environmental concerns over fracking, solar and wind farms make for frequent headlines. However, the underlying technical and ecological issues are complex and market deregulation can further inhibit speedy solutions. But one thing’s for sure – there is broad agreement that our precious natural resources need to be preserved and managed with care.

Gas reserves are of particular interest. Utility Week reported recently that the Energy Networks Association’s Gas Futures Group had appointed KPMG to evaluate different possibilities for the future of gas in the UK over the next 25 years. The report will consider the main drivers and trends that influence the long term development of the energy system such as technology, decarbonisation targets, and demand profiles and their impact upon the gas network.

Gas being in the spotlight is good news for current Catalyst Centre tenant Utonomy. The start-up here at the University of Southampton Science Park is developing new technology which will reduce leakage in the UK’s gas distribution networks.

There are eight gas distribution networks throughout the British Isles which take gas from the high pressure transmission system and distribute it to the consumer. Maintaining a consistent pressure throughout this network can reduce leakage of methane gas into the environment.

Utonomy’s solution works by automatically managing pressure in the network so that it is consistently at the right level no matter what the demand. This smart network pressure management is expected to reduce leakage by more than 20%. This will give a significant payback for gas network operators and make a big impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

This is important because methane gas is a potent greenhouse gas with 84 times the global warming potential of CO2 over 20 years. It accounts for 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions, 30% of which derive from oil and gas production.

Technology is only one part of the total energy management and conservation solution of course, but it’s reassuring to know that our entrepreneurial spirits here at the Catalyst Centre are leading the way!