Real-Time Networks

The rise of data and digitalisation has helped many sectors become more efficient and resilient - and as we move toward a future net zero energy system, the application of these future technologies will become even more important.

Network modelling is just one area where data analysis can help drive efficiencies. It is essential to efficiently and cost-effectively distribute gas – but our current network model is based on assumptions and techniques developed in the 1980s. While that worked perfectly at that time, decarbonisation is changing where our gas comes from, the types of gas we use, and the way we use it. Homes and appliances are becoming much more energy efficient, and low-carbon technologies like renewables, hydrogen and biomethane are changing our energy system.

As we look towards net zero and a decarbonised energy system, the traditional methods of energy production are giving way to more agile, decentralised solutions that require a smarter, more flexible grid. By modelling demand in real time, we can better react to meet new and future customer demand.

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Understanding Demand

Our Real-Time Networks project was devised to develop a world-first real-time gas demand network model: a critical step in our decarbonisation journey. We’re aiming to demonstrate a flexible gas network that can meet current and future energy needs. To do that requires the most extensive, meaningful gas demand research the industry has seen in decades.

We’re collecting and analysing live gas data every six minutes as it is distributed through our network in the south-east and used by our customers.

Gas demand data has been collected using 1,200 gas meter data loggers installed at our customers’ homes and businesses to record their gas consumption.

With gas demand linked directly to local environmental conditions, our new weather stations are collecting live temperature, wind speed and humidity data to build up a clearer picture of how these affect demand.

We’re using novel sensor technology at our six bespoke constructed sites to record gas quality, flow, temperature and pressure data. The sites are powered by installed solar and wind units installed in existing street lighting.

The project has also been testing downstream renewable technologies such as home heat pumps in a variety of conditions to establish their potential impact on future gas demand.

All of this data is managed in our innovative real-time Cloud Data Solution, which securely stores, processes and analyses the data as it communicates with the Real-Time Model.

Future Impact

The wider rollout of our Real-Time Network Model across the UK could help energy providers and distributors more agile and able to react to trends instantly, allowing for more informed asset decisions to be made, saving energy and money. Our customers could benefit as decreased gas demand reduces leakage and maintenance requirements, in turn reducing costs and carbon emissions.

Real-Time Networks is a key step towards more advanced energy modeling on the network: a crucial factor in adding more low-carbon generation to the network as we aim to reduce ours and the UK’s carbon output to net zero.

It’s a transformative approach to the way we view, model and plan our gas distribution, and it paves the way for a more efficient, affordable, low-carbon future.