NGN reaping the rewards of SME innovation expertise

Innovation through collaboration is proving the perfect recipe for success at Northern Gas Networks (NGN), the gas distributer for the North of England.

This year NGN has continued to see some fantastic results from its work with SMEs, helping solve perennial problems on the network and creating valuable savings in the process.

Through the mechanism of the Energy Innovation Centre, NGN is able to tap into a vast resource of expertise and ideas from over 2,000 UK SMEs.

And in the last 12 months, the distributer has enjoyed some impressive outcomes from its work with business.

Thirty-four presentation were made by SMEs in 2016-17, with over 100 expressions of interest and £500k invested in 11 new products.

One innovation proving its worth out on the network is the ground-breaking Servicecam water ingress kit, developed in partnership with engineering specialists Synthotech and supported by Network Innovation Allowance funding.

When water finds its way into the gas network due to flooding or a burst water main, it can take days to remove, leading to major disruption for customers often during the coldest months of the year.

NGN teamed up with Synthotech to develop a faster way of tackling this perennial industry headache and getting customers back on gas as quickly as possible.

Using a combined CCTV camera and water pump, the kit is sent down the gas pipes to locate the water and simultaneously pump it out.

The Water Extraction for Services (WES) with Servicecam was developed from a prototype created by NGN network technician Rob Arthur, who engineered the original in his garage on weekends.

Small enough to fit inside gas pipes, the kit has shown itself to be an effective tool when tackling the headache of water ingress and has played a vital role in speeding up the resolution of several water ingress incidents over the last year.

Having undergone successful field trials, the technology has been adopted as business as usual at NGN with WES and Servicecam purchased for use across the network.

The kit has been deployed 261 times in 2017 to date, and is calculated to have delivered around £18,000 in financial benefit so far. It also won the IGEM Innovation Product of the Year award in 2016.

WES and Servicecam’s ability to perform a thorough investigation of the pipe is greatly reducing costly and time-consuming disruptive excavation processes employed via traditional methods, and their associated risks and environmental impacts.

NGN Head of Innovation Richard Hynes-Cooper said: “Ultimately, the WES and Servicecam gives a First Call Operative or an engineering team an opportunity to undertake a thorough, forensic investigation. This is to confirm the operating status and functionality of the pipe before creating any physical disruption to a customer’s property, or the public footway or carriageway.

“This ensures that the action taken is with an informed opinion, leading to the best outcome for the customer, in the safest, most efficient manner.

“It’s another example of successful innovation implementation delivering value for money and driving efficiency.”

Synthotech’s Managing Director David Morgan added: “Working with Northern Gas Networks, we set out to change the way the UK gas industry deals with water ingress. I believe we’ve achieved that.”

To learn more about Innovation and the latest projects at Northern Gas Networks visit

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