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Cutting Carbon Together: Utilities Sector Strategies for Net Zero

Read our latest blog on carbon reduction and net zero, sharing insights from a recent Radius Systems webinar feature panelists from Cadent Gas, SES Water and Sustainable Energy First.


Legal obligations and the impact of inaction

The Paris Agreement, explained by our speaker Phil Richards from Sustainable Energy First, sets legal obligations for member states. It is a legally binding international treaty on climate change, adopted by 196 parties at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris on 21st December 2015. In recent years, world leaders have stressed the need to limit global warming by 1.5 degree Celsius by the end of this century. To limit global warming to this extent, we must peak before 2025 at the latest and decline by 43% by 2030.

What this means for us in real terms is that the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 has to be at least 100% lower than the 1990 baseline.

Cadent Gas sets high standards

We all know that carbon reduction is a long game. Leaders in the utility industry recognise that acting swiftly and with investment early is needed. Cadent Gas, representing gas supply to 35% of the UK population is a prime example.

Horace Wheeler, Head of Net Zero Strategy explains their eight-year goal of carbon reduction by a huge 66%. How? The top item is their iron mains replacement programme, which reduces carbon by reducing leaks and wastage.

“Replacing the oldest and leakiest iron mains on our network with plastic pipe, like the guys at Radius are producing, which has some very significant benefits, not least of which is the leak reduction that we can achieve with that replacement. And once we complete that program by 2032, the difference that will make will be [the equivalent of] three quarters of a million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions across our network."

By 2032 their goal is to have replaced 95% of the iron mains. With leaks making up 90% of their carbon emissions, it makes sense to prioritise this. In addition to upgrading those old iron leaky pipes with PE pipes, there’s a good deal of focus for Cadent Gas on digital leak detection and prevention.

SES Water addresses gaps in innovation to address carbon reduction

Collaboration, rightly cited as the cornerstone of success for many business challenges, remains from the perspective of Jeremy Heath Innovation Manager at SES Water, key for managing leakage.

“Anything that we can do to reduce the amount of water we're treating and the amount of water that we're having to move around is going to make huge benefits in terms of our net zero,” says Jeremy.

He explains how the UK Water Programme on Leakage is tracking all innovation in the sector, to ensure joined up thinking. As a result, it gives the collective a view of where greater investment needs to be made to plug gaps.

“If you want to solve leakage, you have got to do all four of these [key areas] brilliantly: prevent it, be aware of it, locate it, and mend it quickly.”

Managing Leakage Jeremy Heath 2k wide

Managing Leakage

  • PREVENT: Stop pipelines leaking in the first place through preventive measures
  • AWARE & LOCATE: Divide areas into districts for close monitoring
  • MEND: Speed is a challenge, handling the requirements of different councils alone can have a real pace reducing effect.

Jeremy raises the question of how to do this cost effectively and using low carbon methods. Whether that is by incentivising no-dig or low-dig approaches. While leakage remains front and centre of innovation for the water sector, he went on to emphasise the under investment of innovation in the mend element of reducing carbon emissions.

PE Pipes derived from vegetable matter

While there is a wide understanding that PE pipe made from ethylene from geological sources (crude oil) has a massive carbon reducing factor due to its intrinsic properties preventing leaks, we took the opportunity during the webinar to explore the potential of using biological sources (plant matter) for producing ethylene.

Radius Systems’ Sustainability Manager Simon Jones outlined the chemistry of producing ethylene and the cost factors involved if there was to be a move to bio-ethylene as an alternative. He explores that it doesn’t need to be a one hundred precent switch to bio ethylene, but in fact merely a percentage could make a huge difference. For example, if ten percent of resin in pipe was of a biological and not of a geological origin, the carbon intensity would drop by just over seven percent.

Carbon reduction in the pipeline

Upgrading the gas and water pipe networks to reduce leakage is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, these can be bolstered by adopting methods that are no-dig or low-dig such as roll-down or sliplining. A study carried out in 2013 by Beale et al found that sliplining on a project with 200mm diameter pipe of a length of 200m buried at a depth of 1.5m, resulted in CO² emissions reducing by 81% relative to open-cut trenching. Read the full paper here.

Radius Subterra, the pipeline services company, specialises in installation and rehabilitation methods such as slip lining. Explore more here.

Radius Systems, market leader in pipe, fittings and valves is playing its part too: from driving-out carbon from the supply chain and manufacturing processes by only using renewable electricity and HVO fuel in vehicles, through to ensuring that the delivery of finished goods emit the least amount of carbon possible by carefully planning full load deliveries.

Learn more about Radius Systems’ commitment to being a leader within the industry, and how we plan to become net-zero by 2045 here (link to the sustainability page).

Author: Dionne Knowles Head of Marketing at Radius Systems Ltd.

A global distribution network graphic

A Nationwide Distribution Network

Since 1969 we have developed and manufactured innovative plastic pipeline solutions for the gas industry and these solutions are now commonly used in the water, wastewater, energy & power, district heating and telecoms sectors.