LCNI Conference: GTO highlights

The Low Carbon Networks and Innovation (LCNI) Conference in Telford is a big event in the energy sector’s calendar, and our Gas Transmission business is a regular attendee. Tom Neal, Innovation Governance Manager, shares the highlights and looks ahead to 2019.

For Gas Transmission, the LCNI conference presents an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how we’re pushing innovation and challenging how we do things, while keeping the issues of safety and customer satisfaction at the heart of our business.

This year’s event was a jam-packed two days of insightful conversations and presenting our latest innovations to our industry peers and stakeholders.

It’s an exciting time for us, with two of our biggest projects drawing to a close after years of development and hard work. Projects GRAID (Gas Robotic Agile Inspection Device) and CLoCC (Customer Low Cost Connections) are both funded by the Network Innovation Competition (NIC) and, as we come to the end of their development stages, we’re looking ahead to what’s next for them – something we shared with the conference attendees.

Making the GRAID

Presenting the GRAID robot at the LCNI Conference was a fitting way to mark a new chapter in its progress, as we get ready for its launch on live networks. 

The device is a new type of robot capable of inspecting the condition of previously unreachable buried pipework at high-pressure above-ground installations, and took pride of place on the GTO stand. Having successfully completed two sessions of rigorous testing, the robot is now ready to start its career in earnest. 

We shared and celebrated the project’s journey in our LCNI presentation through the launch of a new video that tells the story from its beginning.

Final countdown for Project CLoCC

Project CLoCC has been looking at ways to reduce both the time and cost of connecting to the National Transmission System, for new and existing gas customers. It sounds simple, but the project is fundamentally reassessing the entire ‘application to offer’ process and challenging it.  

The project looked to reduce the time to connect to under one year, and reduce the cost to under £1 million.

To address these aims, the project created a new online customer portal, developed a suite of new connection designs, and optimised commercial arrangements to offer more flexibility for customers.

Ahead of the portal’s go live date in November, the Project CLoCC team shared its story with the LCNI Conference attendees – also with a new video that describes the benefits of the project and the journey behind the final product.

The conference presented an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how we’re pushing innovation and challenging how we do things.

– Tom Neal, Innovation Governance Manager

Protecting our SCADA systems

Phil Sheppard, Director of Gas Transmission, chaired the Gas: Reliability and Maintenance session, which highlighted the types of innovation that are really adding value for consumers. These included Project GRAID and SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), which is all about updating its SCADA systems to help manage cyber risks.

The SCADA project aims to create one common platform to replace the variety of different control systems that currently exist at our Compressor Sites – and develop a modular approach that can be used to upgrade the system quickly and in a cost-effective way.
These were only a few of the great series of presentations throughout the conference. We also conducted an #InnovationTakeover on social media which saw National Grid’s LinkedIn and Twitter accounts shining a light on innovation throughout the conference, from encouraging people to engage with our presentations to learning about exciting new projects, like adding hydrogen into the NTS.  

Shaking up innovation

The conference concluded with an insightful innovation session – with a twist. Six groups of innovators and disruptors pitched their project ideas directly to the Gas and Electricity networks in the style of popular TV show Dragons Den. Each team had six minutes to impress, then six minutes of questions from the panel. Following an excellent set of presentations, the audience voted for their favourite using Slido and the panellists made their choice. The worthy winner of the £10,000 seed fund to develop their idea was Scene Connect, for their CloudZUos platform. 

The creativity shown by all the networks with their exhibits and presentations was fantastic. And the exhibits on our own stands captured the imagination of many delegates. The opportunity to connect with companies from all across our industry was invaluable. 

In 2019 things are changing. We won’t be attending the LCNI conference, but instead will be hosting the first ever Gas Innovation Showcase at the well-attended Utility Week Live from 21-22 May at the NEC in Birmingham. We will be joined by Gas Distribution networks Cadent, Northern Gas Networks, Wales & West Utilities and SGN.