SME SUPPORTS GROUND-BREAKING ‘SELF-HEALING’ CABLE PROJECT

Encouraging the best in new technologies that can have a positive impact on the UK energy industry and benefit customers is vital and Northern Powergrid is proud to be a sponsor of this year’s UK Energy Innovation Awards.

Innovation is core to our business and we continue to collaborate with a range of partners including SMEs, leading car manufacturer Nissan and other network operators.

Northern Powergrid and UK Power Networks are currently collaborating on a ground-breaking, environmentally friendlier new technology which could deliver millions of pounds of savings each year.

Working with the Energy Innovation Centre, we were able to present our business challenge of minimising leakage from damaged fluid filled cables to the SME community.  From a 2,000-strong innovator community, EIC helped us discover science and technology innovation company Gnosys Global.

Northern Powergrid and UK Power Networks are now working with Gnosys Global exploring the use of self-repairing polymers and resins to minimise leakage in order to lower repair costs and reduce the amount of fluid that flows into the ground.

Why is this project important?

All major UK electricity operators have a relatively small amount of fluid filled cable circuits on their distribution networks which over time, can be damaged and result in leaks. In line with regulatory requirements, cables must be maintained, repaired and replaced in the most environmentally friendly and cost effective way to minimise the impact on energy bills.

Recognising the importance of this issue the distribution network operators (DNOs) have invested in the region of £700,000 in this project to date.

How does it work?

Fluids are used to cool and insulate some types of electricity cables. Leaks can happen if small holes or cracks appear in the cable sheath or joints.  Gynosys has developed an additive that can be included in the fluid which when it comes in to contact with the air, reacts, plugging the gap and containing the fluid should a more major leak occur. This extends the life of older cables and provides improved environmental performance.

What happens next?

The first phase of the project, which involved laboratory testing to demonstrate the suitability of the chemical technology, has successfully been completed. Further cable and circuit testing is now planned to trial the fluid for use in power networks. We are currently exploring opportunities to accelerate the introduction and real-time trial this on a section of network to see how it can improve our network and benefit customers.

Jim Cardwell, Head of Trading and Innovation at Northern Powergrid, said: “We’re pleased to be collaborating with EIC, industry and an innovative SME company to trial a new solution that could make a big difference for our customers and local communities.

“Underground cables across networks are often in difficult to reach locations so having a substance that could instantly react to any leaks and create cables with self-repairing properties could transform the way we treat and respond to cable damage.  It would enable the network to continue to operate without the need for an excavation to repair it and reduce disruption to our customers and their power supply.

“We’re keen to take this environmentally friendlier technology out of the laboratory and explore opportunities to trial it on a live part of our network in the future so we can see how it can benefit customers and our network in the long-term.”

Matthieu Michel, Head of Innovation Delivery at the EIC, said: “This project demonstrates how engaging with SMEs can help the energy networks work smarter to discover solutions to their business challenges. Through open communication and collaboration, the networks can develop innovative projects like this, allowing them to tackle a problem which is faced by DNOs across the UK.”

Northern Powergrid and innovation…

To find out more about Northern Powergrid, our innovation projects – including our industry-leading partnership with Nissan – visit www.northernpowergrid.com/innovation