INNOVATION FOR TODAY & TOMORROW
Steven Jones, Managing Director, egeplast UK
Innovation is at the core of everything we do. With a long-standing commitment to investment in R&D and a track record in the development of industry firsts, egeplast is focussed on the provision of innovative future-proofed pipe systems which help meet the challenges being faced by our customers and wider society now and, importantly, in the decades to come.
Our R&D programme is currently focussed on the development and provision of future-proofed pipe systems which help address core issues being faced by our customers and wider society, specifically leakage and water network resilience; urban development and ground contamination; the move to new energy sources; digitalisation and connectivity, and carbon reduction.
Leakage, repair times and network resilience
Although progress has been made by ‘UK water plc’, pipe leakage continues to be a major issue for water companies and society as a whole. OFWAT targets require water companies to cut leakage by 16% by 2025[i] and pipe manufacturers have a key role to play in achieving this goal. To put this into context, meeting this target will save enough water to meet the needs of everyone living in Cardiff, Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, Sheffield and Liverpool.
Solving issues around water leakage and network resilience is by no means a simple or quick process but by investing in innovative technologies, pipe manufacturers have an important role to play.
At egeplast, we manufacture pipe products which have protective outer skins to maximise durability and protect against damage. If damage occurs however, we have also developed continuous pipe monitoring systems. These systems ensure that when a leak occurs, the water company is notified immediately and the leak can be located quickly and easily.
Continuous monitoring systems such as egeplast’s 3L Leak Control system provide information to water companies instantly, enabling them to minimise damage and resolve any issues to prevent significant outages for customers. Monitored products also eliminate the need to wait until there is a significant burst or an obvious major leak. This helps protect the environment from any unexpected ‘spillages’ from sewage or other contaminated fluids which are being transported. Importantly, it also minimises the loss of water, one of our most precious natural resources.
Urban development and contamination
The use of brownfield land will ensure valuable greenfield sites remain undeveloped and can be used as green areas for people to enjoy. The government has identified capacity for 1.3 million homes alone on local authority brownfield registers, an increase of 19% on 2019 figures[ii]. It has also released another £60m capital grant funding to help drive brownfield site development via the second phase of the Brownfield Land Release Fund (BLRF2)[iii]. However, building on brownfield sites presents its own challenges, specifically a need for pipe products which stop contamination from any hydrocarbons and chemical ‘nasties’ which may be present in the soil. As a business, we are focussed on the ongoing development of our market-leading SLA barrier pipe system which already provides the utilities industry with a cost-effective, high quality way of protecting clean drinking water from contaminants in brownfield land.
Hydrogen delivery systems and the move to low carbon energy
As the use of hydrogen continues to grow across the world, society requires new pipe systems which enable its transfer. More advanced technical solutions such as egeplast’s ‘HexelOne’ system – a self-reinforced high pressure PE pipe which has twice the strength of conventional PE pipes – are now required to provide additional pressure stability and to ensure systems are robust and highly durable. Investment in the development of high pressure pipe technologies will be critical as society moves away from convention energy sources and towards hydrogen based energy supplies. Equally, investment in the development of new pipe systems such as egeplast ‘Power Protect’ will also be vital to support the roll out of more electric car charging stations as we move towards net zero.
Digitisation and connectivity
Between now and 2025, fibre optics infrastructure investment will be significant: the UK government alone is investing £5 billion to ensure that hard-to-reach areas have the same access to gigabit-capable broadband[iv]. egeplast is investing heavily in the development of new fibre-optic sector solutions, many of which can be used in trenchless applications to enable quick and cost effective installation. To meet growing demand for premium microproducts, egeplast International GmbH has also doubled its manufacturing capacities in this production area. As a premier European manufacturer, egeplast is committed to making continued investment in manufacturing capacity to ensure we can meet increasing demand from our customers for these products and keep pace with customer investments.
Reducing carbon emissions and the environmental impact of activities is a primary objective for egeplast. All of our PE pipe products are 100% recyclable. In addition, innovative installation methodologies reduce the carbon footprint of pipe installations by either negating the need to dig trenches or avoiding the use of aggregate as bedding with the related issues around delivery and the removal of spoil. We continue to invest in the development of robust trenchless solutions which enable trenchless installation without damage whilst reducing CO2 emissions even further.
We are also investing in the development of innovative customer service initiatives. For example, we can now undertake just-in-time deliveries to sites and, by using vehicles with larger load capacities, are minimising the number of site deliveries required to reduce cost and the amount of CO2 generated.
This article highlights just some of the areas where we believe innovation in pipe systems and related technologies is critically important. In a world of increasing energy costs, higher raw material prices and fast paced change, our drive to deliver the innovative future-proofed solutions also requires us to invest in our people and in innovative new processes.
Egeplast’s new ‘ImPROVe’ employee development programme, for example, will deliver additional training, focus on continuous improvements and give us an even greater focus on ‘Lean’ manufacturing principles. A critical investment for our business, ImPROVe will ensure we can fulfil future customer requirements, increase production capacity to meet growing market demand for our products and drive innovation across every part of our business. This holistic approach to innovation ensures that it remains at the core of our business and, we believe, is the best way to ensure we are well placed to help society address the issues it faces not just in the next five years but over the next fifty.
i OFWAT website
ii CPRE ‘Recycling our land: the state of brownfield 2020’ report
iii Brownfield Land Release Fund 2 – https://www.local.gov.uk/topics/housing-and-planning/one-public-estate/brownfield-land-release-fund iv UK Government website
iv UK Government website