Smart Gas Grids

Self-regulating grids

Active systems that integrate different types of energy and make decisions autonomously to optimise energy distribution. Smart Grids are an ambitious project thanks to which, in the very near future, energy will be distributed through networks capable of instantly managing and regulating multiple, discontinuous and bidirectional flows.

Decarbonisation, Decentralisation and Digitalisation

By joining the Green Deal, the European Union has committed to reducing net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, with intermediate targets for 2030 and 2040. The action plan includes both the promotion of the efficient use of resources by moving towards a clean, circular economy, and the restoration of biodiversity and reduction of pollution.

Smart Grids can greatly contribute to achieving these European objectives. In regard to electricity distribution, implementing Smart Grids means:

  • exploiting information technologies to enable the exchange of data and information between the various nodes in order to optimise flows;
  • transforming the role of the final consumer from passive user to producer of energy (for example, via solar panels on their roofs) and informer that helps the grid to plan efficient usage and prevent peaks in power and excess production;
  • maximising the safety and eliminating leakage and waste and thus reducing consumption;
  • integrating Distributed Energy Resources (DER) within the grid, changing the distribution model from oligarchic to distributed. The more small renewable energy plants become more widespread, the closer the places where energy is produced and consumed will become (even coinciding in some cases), leading to the elimination of leakage on long transmission backbones.

Smart Grids for electricity and gas distribution

Smart Grids for electricity and gas distribution

Sustainable, digitalised grids for gas distribution

Pietro Fiorentini has been actively researching and developing new solutions that can be used in smart grids for years now, especially the natural gas grids.

Current gas distribution networks have a significant limitation: they are subject to expected leakage, particularly at the junction points between pipes and valves, when accidental damage is caused by excavation work or vehicles that block a connection, or due to the corrosion of insufficiently cathodically protected pipes.

The leaks are directly proportional to the pressure at which the gas is maintained to ensure proper service standards at the delivery points and are particularly harmful from an environmental perspective. In fact, when burnt, natural gas is the fossil fuel with the lowest environmental impact among those that are currently available. However, if it is released into the atmosphere without being burnt, it is much more harmful than CO2.

Distributing natural gas through sustainable, smart grids therefore means designing systems which feature:

  • flexibility in managing flows coming from different resources located at multiple injection points and with different properties;
  • the ability to maintain balance within decentralised grids with bidirectional flows;
  • resilience.

LIFE 13 Green Gas Network

Today, Pietro Fiorentini is already able to implement automations that dynamically manage the entire grid. The most recent example of this is the LIFE 13 Green Gas Network project created in collaboration with RetiPiù and Terranova, a leader in the energy and utilities market and an integral part of the Pietro Fiorentini Group since 2011.

With the aim of fixing the problem of expected leaks that occur in natural gas distribution networks, a system consisting of a physical device and software infrastructure has been developed. The device detects pressure trends and reacts on the basis of the dynamic modulation profile previously developed by a control centre operator. The operator has the possibility of monitoring the current pressure trend and intervening remotely via the software platform.

The result is a self-regulating network that can adapt the operating pressures to real needs, thereby preventing excess pressure and limiting emissions from the expected leakages.

The project was nominated as one of the finalists in the Climate Change category of the 2019 edition of the LIFE Awards, the tool with which the European Union supports entities working to protect the climate and the environment.

Download the LIFE 13 project case study.

Smart Grids and renewable gas

Creating sustainable, smart grids for gas distribution networks means devising solutions to manage flows that come from sources with different characteristics, such as hydrogen and biomethane, and which come from multiple, decentralised production locations.

The scenario ahead of us is extremely complex and requires systems capable of absorbing local production and maintaining the balance and structure of the entire network.

Smart Grids and renewable gas

Smart Grids and renewable gas

To this end, Pietro Fiorentini has designed and developed BiRemi™, the bidirectional primary station able to maximise the capacity of the distribution network to receive gas produced from renewable sources through the re-injection of any overproduction on the transport network.

Pietro Fiorentini’s systemic approach

The implementation of the smart grids of the future requires the continued development of systems that are compatible with renewable sources and solutions that are capable of interacting with one another.

Faced with such a complex scenario, Pietro Fiorentini has chosen to adopt a systemic approach, i.e. to pursue simple connections that interact with each other to create resilient systems.

Our vision foresees four steps to achieving the maximum level of Smart Gas Grids implementation.

  1. Widespread monitoring, achieved thanks to the expansion of the sensor network.
  2. Configuration with local automation logic and remote control to dynamically balance the network structure.
  3. Through the aggregation and analysis of collected data, forecasts and optimisation actions using artificial intelligence technologies.
  4. The adoption of fully autonomous, integrated and resilient systems that respond to smart energy and smart city logics.

While we can now say that the first two steps have been completed, Pietro Fiorentini’s commitment is now directed towards the next steps. The ultimate goal is to achieve full integration between gas distribution networks in all their forms.

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