Natural Gas Transmission System Operator
16.12.2021
Innovative drones are going to ensure the safety of the gas transmission system and lower CO2
 
Lithuanian gas transmission system operator Amber Grid, striving to maximise their activities and reduce the negative impact upon the environment, has created and tested innovative technology - a drone that detects the leakage of methane - together with the Italian manufacturer Italdron. A second - view transmission drone comes with the set. They are going to supplement the arsenal of the equipment ensuring the safety and reliability of the Amber Grid gas network. 
 
These drones will contribute to reducing the impact upon the environment as part of the daily operator’s activities, because they facilitate the control of methane and CO2 quantity, which sometimes penetrates into the environment, more efficiently in the gas pipeline system. In this respect, flora and fauna along the gas pipeline will be better protected.   
“The importance of innovations is significant for ensuring safety within the gas network, because it helps to undertake the most important works more efficiently with less traces of CO2. We periodically check the entirety of the two thousand kilometres of operating gas pipelines in order to detect gas leakages, which start to occur due to welding seams or other defects. We have already applied a method that involves flying helicopters with laser leakage detection equipment, we are carrying out a reliable leakage search with sensitive manual devices using the bypass manner of the pipelines. We very much hope that the new technology, after it has been fully mastered, will help to achieve environmental and gas pipeline reliability goals. We are one of the first operators following this path”, said the technical director, Andrius Dagys, mentioning the benefits of a drone.  
The creation of the innovative system poses many challenges. Its concept has changed during the process of drone development. With reference to the need to retain a long flying time and an accuracy of the sensor which detects a methane leakage, the partners came up with a system, consisting of two drones: a main drone that flies along the given route over the gas pipeline and detects a gas leakage, its coordinates and other parameters required for a safe and controllable flight. The second drone is raised in order to inspect and record the detected place of leakage, assess the location, access, plants and other aspects. 
 
 
Due to the separation of these functions, the distance covered and the flying time of the main drone has increased. The flying object with five engines and the fixed wings is able to fly 40-50 km, and under ideal weather conditions – in some cases 80-100 km. A special sensor is integrated into the drone, which disseminates laser impulses and detects any methane concentration in the air.
 
The forthcoming pilots have been developing their drone management skills in Italy, in the established partners’ drone control base, and they have tested the objects under real conditions in Lithuania during September. The plan is for these drones to be used for the inspection of gas pipelines, supplementing and changing the “live” bypass of gas pipelines later on.   
 
Drones have been developed and tested in the real environment, implemented within the framework of the international “SecureGas H2020” project, where Amber Grid participated. The main objective of this project is to create measures to safeguard the infrastructure of natural gas for cybernetic and physical safety. 
 
 
The system of gas transmission in Lithuania contains 2,115 high pressure gas pipelines, 64 gas distribution stations and two gas compression stations in the Širvintai and Panevėžys districts.
 
The company Italdron, established in Italy, specialises in the use of pilotless aircrafts for optimising various business processes.   
 
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