By Simon Trollope, IGEM Head of Development & Knowledge Delivery
In October, what promises to be the first of many events uniting the whole of the Irish Section saw around 30 guests from across Northern Ireland and Eire gather in Cork to discuss the future of the country’s gas networks.
Sponsored by Gas Networks Ireland (GNI), the event was opened by the company’s Liam Nolan before each of the network operators shared their current plans and developments with the eager crowd.
Irish Section Chair David Butler, of SGN Natural Gas, updated the audience on his network’s plans in conjunction with project partner Mutual Energy to take gas to the west of Northern Ireland. Their aim is to make gas available to 171,000 properties through the installation of 7bar pipelines in seven towns.
He outlined some of the engineering challenges SGN Natural Gas and its contractors have faced, including 22 river and bridge crossings, 22 off road crossings and over 150 smaller crossings.
Next, Denver Wasson, from Phoenix Natural Gas, shared details of his network, which serves 318,000 properties via 3,700km of pipeline. He shared Phoenix’s latest project - the East Down expansion to 13 towns and 28,000 properties – and outlined how the company monitors network pressure for 230,000 of its customers. This allows them to check pressure across peak gas flow and thus gives them the ability to check when reinforcement is required.
Jonathan Strain, of Firmus Energy, shared plans to expand the Firmus network in conjunction with prime contractor Kier Utilities. He then went on to share the learnings of a flagship project crossing the River Foyle in Derry via a 47.9mm PE gas pipe - the first of its kind installed in Northern Ireland - some 30m below the river.
He went on to captivate the audience with the tale of how he found an unexploded WWII bomb while trying to recover an acoustic tester from the river.
Finally, Andrew Kelly, from Gas Networks Ireland, shared his network’s ambition to deliver 20 per cent of its gas demand through renewable sources by 2030. It intends to achieve this by injecting biomethane into the grid or by transporting it via specialist gas tankers to a central injection point.
Andrew also shared GNI’s plans to help decarbonise transport in Ireland by building a network of 14 CNG fuelling stations.