Interview with Lorenzo Romeo, Chief Corporate Strategy Officer, Italgas

Lorenzo Romeo, Chief Corporate Strategy Officer, Italgas, details the main elements of Italgas presence at Enlit Europe and how is the company helping the future of the energy transition.

  • Italgas will be present at Enlit Europe 2021. What are the key elements of Italgas’ presence for this year?

Italgas is the leading gas distributor in Italy, the third in Europe and is one of the founding members of GD4S (Gas Distributors for Sustainability), the association gathering the main EU DSOs, chaired by the CEO of Italgas, Paolo Gallo. Along with the other members of GD4S, we are committed to promote the strategic role of gas distribution networks in supporting the decarbonisation process. We envisage two main directions: on one hand, the boost to the development of renewable gases such as biomethane, synthetic methane and green hydrogen; on the other hand, the constant reduction of energy consumption and greenhouse emissions, in line with the Green Deal targets.

Our presence at Enlit Europe 2021 will be an opportunity to present the concrete actions we have implemented for the energy transition, showing the results obtained and the main solutions and models adopted to achieve them: our digital transformation journey, that in 2022 will lead Italgas to be the first utility in the world with a fully digital network; the first implementation of an end-to-end green hydrogen value chain, with our Power to Gas project in Sardinia; the adoption of cutting-edge solutions for identifying and reducing leaks from gas networks.

Moreover, during the event, thanks to the presence of Bludigit (the Italgas Group’s new digital services company, born from the combination of Italgas’ IT skills and the innovative approach of our Digital Factory) we will also showcase the digital expertise we developed over the last few years. Indeed, our digital solutions are managed by Bludigit on the Italgas perimeter, but are also available to other infrastructure operators in the gas and water sectors.

  • Which initiatives is Italgas implementing to support the energy transition?

Gas networks are a key asset in the energy transition process. The European Commission promoted this view, emphasising the need for networks able to accept renewable gases such as biomethane, synthetic methane and green hydrogen. To do this, the infrastructure must be fully digitalised, i.e., capable of transmitting data, receiving and executing instructions, and therefore be managed remotely. So, the “Digital Transition” is the main enabler for the Energy Transition.

Italgas started its digital journey back in 2017. We installed digital devices capable of transmitting and receiving information in real-time, we introduced IoT technologies for the massive acquisition of the physical parameters of the network and we created intelligent algorithms to translate this information into business insights and decisions. Moreover, we have almost completed the replacement of traditional meters with smart meters, that allow remote reading of users’ consumption. Speaking of smart meters, we are currently working on the development of a new-generation smart meter that will also measure renewable gases. The development of the first prototype, made entirely from sustainable materials, is expected in 2022, with the first installations as early as 2023.

Renewable gases development is key to Italgas’ decarbonisation strategy. In fact, we are working on the first application of the hydrogen value chain in the EU, from the production of green hydrogen (in a Power to Gas plant) to a set of different final uses; the project will be implemented in Sardinia, near Cagliari. The plant will be connected to the new “digital native” networks we are building in Sardinia. The region, which was the only one in Italy not reached by natural gas, has now the most advanced infrastructure in the country; a network that guarantees greater efficiency and quality of gas distribution service and, in the next future, will receive and distribute renewable gases to end customers, making decarbonisation increasingly concrete. Digitisation of the network, development of renewable gases, but also reduction of methane emissions: Italgas has a strong commitment, pursued by using and promoting the adoption of the most advanced leak detection solutions. In 2018, we introduced a new cutting-edge technology for gas network monitoring, which from January 2020 has entirely replaced the traditional one for our whole network. The system is based on CRDS (Cavity Ring-Down Spectroscopy) technology and was developed by the Californian company Picarro. It offers significant advantages in terms of speed of execution, sensitivity in detection and coverage area.

  • What is Italgas contribution in supporting other utilities in their paths towards energy transition and digital transformation?

Given the commitment towards decarbonisation, Italgas adopted advanced practices and technologies, which are now paving the way for a more sustainable future. We strongly believe that such expertise and solutions can benefit other infrastructure and energy operators to set more ambitious goals and target them concretely.

Bludigit, the digital service company of the Italgas’ Group, with the capabilities developed in the Digital Factory in proprietary digital applications and through the partnerships with technological providers at global level, offers innovative solutions to third parties. Just few examples: WorkOnSite, which allows remote monitoring of construction progress and automated verification of work compliance to technical requirements through artificial intelligence and image recognition, therefore reducing on-site visits and fuel consumption, while improving the quality of works and reducing the risk of future leakages and reworks. Another example is ShareView, based on a wearable device for remote assistance in maintenance activities, that allows to provide instructions on-site through augmented reality, reducing the number of trips or visits by experts even for simple inspections. Leak detection through the innovative CRDS technology by Picarro is also provided by Bludigit in Italy and Europe; it allows the reduction of gas network leaks and prioritise replacement or repair investments based on predictive maintenance optimisation.

Thanks to Bludigit, Italgas Group becomes a key player in the digital and energy transition of the infrastructure and energy sector, offering advanced technological solutions to the market to support the decarbonisation path.

If you want to know more about Italgas and their participation in Enlit Europe check their company profile here and to read more about Bludigit service click here.

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