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Helping our future innovators get to grips with clean energy

Northern Gas Networks, the organisation responsible for delivering gas to 2.7 million homes and businesses in the North East, Northern Cumbria and Yorkshire, has partnered with the North East LEP to bring an example of project-based learning into a North Tyneside schools. Sarah Napier, Education and Employability Champion at Northern Gas Networks, explains more.

We’re embarking on a new project, working in collaboration with year 11 Construction students at Norham High School in North Tyneside. We’ll be challenging the students to look at the construction of domestic housing, why gas is used in housing, and how we can work to reduce energy use in homes and make them more sustainable.

Northern Gas Networks has a research facility in Gateshead and, as part of the project, the students will be visiting the site to find out about some of the initiatives we have in place to help reduce our carbon footprint and increase the use of clean energy. We hope the group will be inspired by what they see and hear – for example, they will hear from people who are involved in the some of the following projects:

H21: Hydrogen is a clean gas which emits only water and heat when burnt, meaning it doesn’t contribute towards climate change and could be used as a future fuel for heating and cooking. We’re delivering a range of projects called H21, aimed at proving a gas network carrying 100% hydrogen is just as safe as the natural gas network we use today. This week we’ll be attending the Low Carbon Networks and Innovation conference in Telford….and we’ll be taking an exhibition stand powered by hydrogen!

iStop: Our Emergency and Repair engineers often need to use on-board power when carrying out repairs on our network. But this isn’t an environmentally-friendly solution, so we’ve trialled a clever device called iStop. This detects when power hasn’t been needed for a certain time, and drops down the engine revs from 1600rpm to 1200, reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Revs then return when power is required. iStop is now a specification requirement for all our vans using on-board power.

Solar-powered land clean-up: Since 2014, we’ve been remediating our portfolio of former coal gas sites, where there is potential for land contamination. On a site in Gateshead, we recently used solar-powered pumps to remove coal tar from an underground tank, an entirely sustainable solution we plan to replicate on future jobs.  To date we’ve completed land remediations at 9 sites, returning to 3500m2 of land to a healthy state.

Over the course of one term, Norham High School’s future designers, builders and construction experts will work on designing solutions for their housing projects, with guidance from Northern Gas Network staff, before presenting their designs to a team of senior staff at the end of the term.

While we work with a lot of different schools (you can see more of what we do on Twitter at @NGN_Evolve), this particular type of school challenge is a new way of working for us and we’re grateful to be working with the pupils and teachers at Norham – hopefully we will be able to roll out more projects like this to other schools in the future as part of our Education and Employability programmes.

It’s important to us as an organisation that we’re not only working to reduce energy use and make more use of clean energy, but that we’re also working with the next generation of innovators who will be responsible for taking our work forward in the future and this is a great example of bringing the workplace and education closer.

Northern Gas Networks is one of the businesses working with the North East LEP on the Education Challenge, which aims to reduce the gap between the North East’s best and lowest performing schools, with the target that all schools achieve a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ OFSTED rating.

Pictured: One of Northern Gas Networks’ compressed natural gas vehicles at the Low Carbon Networks & Innovation Conference