Mapping our the future
By Sophie Ottewell, IGEM Marketing Assistant
On 3 April, IGEM hosted Blueprint for the Future, the institution’s fifth Gas Utilisation conference, at the National Conference Centre, in Solihull. The event allowed individuals working in the utilisation sector of the gas industry to discuss managing risk, achieving and maintaining competence and to explore the challenges arising from the UK’s transition to a low carbon energy sector.
IGEM CEO Neil Atkinson looked to the future with his opening remarks: “Our industry is undergoing tremendous change at the moment as we all strive in our own ways to meet the challenges of the Climate Change Act and as we look at ways to decarbonise the energy system as a whole.
“We must all continue to look for new ways of working while at the same time continuing to drive excellence in our approach to safety to ensure the gas industry maintains its position as one of the safest in the world.”
Sticking with the subject of safety, the first section of the conference looked at managing risk within the industry, including a look at the updated procedures from IGEM’s working groups. Caroline Lane, Downstream Gas Safety Policy Lead for the Health & Safety Executive, began with a look at the importance of maintaining health within the workplace, stressing the importance of RIDDOR reporting to do so. She noted the potential problem of RIDDOR under reporting, adding that the working group is attempting to understand the discrepancy and work with industry to ensure compliance with this legal duty.
“We’re asking for a commitment from you to achieve the collected, concerted action that’s required from everyone in the system to help make RIDDOR work well,” said Caroline. Chair of both the RIDDOR and IGEM/G/11 working groups Dave Bendle took to the stage next. “RIDDOR itself hasn’t changed,” said Dave. “The regulations are unchanged. What we are trying to do is get a consistent set of guidance to applying those regulations.” The work of the groups, in partnership with HSE, determined that RIDDOR regulations did not require review, and that the G/11 standard should be regarded as the ‘go to’ for gas engineers working in unsafe situations, and therefore the best place to add guidance and clarity to reportable circumstances.
Next, standards of training within the industry were considered, with IGEM playing a key role in ensuring that individuals are trained in line with best practices in health and safety. The key challenges were identified by Ian McCluskey, Head of Technical Services & Policy at IGEM: “It is fundamentally essential to stress that not everything training-related in the gas industry is poor. There are, however, anecdotal reports of inadequately trained new gas engineers conducting unsafe gas engineering work emerging.
“On closer examination, it became increasingly apparent that these were not isolated incidents, but rather indicators of a wider, systemic problem around training standards in the gas industry.” As a result, new entry requirements to ACS assessment came into play on October 2018, meaning that entrants are only eligible if they have undertaken industry-recognised training, either through IGEM, or another recognised training provider.
Further talks surrounding the subject of training within the industry included Ian Moss, Client Manager for Energy & Utility Skills, who demonstrated the work of the Standards Setting Body & Standards Consultation Forum. In addition, Steve Barrett, Strategic Client Director for Energy & Utility Skills, spoke about the benefits of the Group Competence Scheme. All these schemes have been designed to ensure individuals are undertaking relevant and practical training and that they become the competent gas engineers of the future.
Speaking about what the future may hold for the industry, Kate Jeffrey, Commercial Manager at the Health & Safety Laboratory, addressed how clean fuels, such as hydrogen and bio energy, could be used for transport, industry, and to heat our homes and businesses. “A hydrogen economy is a description of a system which is going to be more interconnected and more interdependent than we’ve ever seen before,” she said. She also spoke about the importance of understanding the potential for integration, what it means for consumers, and how it will benefit them.
The work of Matthew Lipson, Head of Consumer Insight for Energy Systems Catapult, delivered a vision on how digitalisation can aid in decarbonising heat; by using data obtained from smart homes to better understand consumers and “offer households tailored retrofits that prepare homes for low carbon heat.”
A final look at hydrogen saw Tommy Isaac, Principal Engineer at Progressive Energy Ltd, take a glance at domestic appliance operation with hydrogen blended natural gas.
The event was the perfect opportunity for exhibitors to demonstrate their latest innovations, to build new connections with the industry and network with fellow IGEM members.
IGEM would like to thank all the speakers and exhibitors in attendance, plus our event sponsors, GEM Environmental Building Services, for contributing to the success of the event