Gas Pipeline Project through 'Bread Basket' of France
GRTgaz is currently extending France’s gas transmission network with the Haute de France II (HDF II) pipeline project. Max Streicher GmbH & Co. KG a.A, of Germany, has been commissioned by GRTgaz to complete the second construction lot.
Streicher is laying 51.7 kilometres of gas pipeline between Corbie and Cuvilly in the Picardy region near Amiens. Working in the “bread basket” of France presents new challenges to pipeline construction experts and calls for new laying techniques.
The Haute de France II as a parallel pipeline to the existing Haute de France I. HDF II starts in French Dunkirk, near the Belgian border, and runs south. The soil in the generally flat area for the pipeline is loose and stony.
A total length of 370 meters is being laid using micro-tunneling drilling techniques. Countless streets and existing lines have to be crossed using closed methods of laying pipeline. The Luce and Avre rivers will be crossed using open laying techniques.
In the area around the Somme River a new trenchless construction method is to be used. The 1,120 meter stretch will be crossed using the direct pipe method. Direct pipe is a combination of two established laying techniques, horizontal directional drilling (HDD) and micro-tunneling.
Pipeline construction and agriculture
The unique ecological requirements for completing this work affect the whole construction process. The area that Haute de France II runs through is known as the bread basket of France. The focus of the process is to protect arable land and ensure sustainable soil quality.
Therefore in bad weather and at a certain level of soil moisture construction work is halted so that the soil is not negatively affected. To ensure that the work is as efficient as possible, whenever possible the construction methods are decided on in agreement with the Chamber of Agriculture.
Double welding power
Work on the Haute de France II project is carried out using the CRC-EVANS welding method. This involves welding the root of the seam from the inside with four torches simultaneously.
Automatic welding machines with double burner systems are used for the filler layers as they allow welding from two places at a distance of 10 centimeters simultaneously. This allows for higher deposition rates than with other methods. The production rate is also significantly higher. The current top performance rate in Streicher’s work is more than 40 welding seams per day.
In total at the second construction site, approximately 3,200 seams will be welded and three valve stations and one receiving station will be completed. Since March nearly 230 Streicher employees have been working north of Paris on site on the project. The firstpressure tests should take place in October and the gas pipeline is due to be ready for use in March 2014.
Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April
Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.
The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.
Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.
In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue.
Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”
There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:
- Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps.
- Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold.
- Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice.
Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.
"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.
"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."
United Utilities picks up pipeline award
A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.
The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.
“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.
Camus Energy secures $16m funding
Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent Ventures, Wave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.
As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.