£70m IT system takes control of half UK energy

New system lets Transco more accurately match supply and demand

transco_150

New system lets Transco more accurately match supply and demand

National Grid Transco has completed the roll-out of a £70m computer system that will allow the firm to control gas transmission across the UK more efficiently by accurately matching supply and demand.

The system integrates physical control of gas transmission with financial decision making by analysing 20 million pieces of data each hour from telemetry systems on the transmission grid.

Transco developed the Integrated Gas Management System, which went live last month, in response to changing regulations in the energy sector.

The Java-based system, which runs on Unix, Windows and Sun servers, is critical to the running of the gas transmission network, which provides about half of the UK's energy needs.

"We have implemented a huge management information system," said Transco programme director Carole Connolly. "There are huge business benefits, in that it allows us to bring the physical decisions together with the business decisions."

The system allows Transco to tailor gas distribution by making automatic hourly predictions of supply and demand across the transmission network from an analysis of historical customer data and weather forecasts.

Transco previously used an army of staff with spreadsheets to predict demand. This method meant data could not easily be updated when there were changes, said Transco business implementation manager Chris Giles.

"We used to have a problem when we amended business-critical data. It would not replicate across the whole of the system. Now we have a mechanism that can correct information at the source and allow it to ripple through. We know we have a single version of the truth," he said.

Transco has invested in three back-up systems to ensure that any outages in the system will last no longer than 15 minutes. It has two sets of hardware at a datacentre in Hinckley and two more at a centre elsewhere in the Midlands.

Transco began work on the project four years ago, collaborating with a range of suppliers, and initially managing the project in-house. It transferred responsibility for systems integration to Indian outsourcing firm Wipro two years ago.

"We wanted better management control and to try to move some of the risk over to a single party, rather than keeping the risk in-house," said Connolly.

The project went live smoothly last month and, unusually for a project of this scale, has so far shown no teething problems.

"It has got to be the smoothest implementation we have seen. It went live on 6 June in a parallel run and we have not experienced any issues," said Connolly.

Saurabh Arvind, project manager at Wipro, said the project involved many technical challenges and required Wipro staff to be rapidly trained in Java programming.

"We have not had an implementation on this scale. To train 250 people up on Java to this quality level was in itself a big challenge," he said.

 

Technology behind the UK's gas supply

Hardware

  • 28 HP Superdome partitions
  • 4 Sun servers
  • 20 Windows servers
  • 36Tbytes of disc storage

Software

  • 46 different systems, including Oracle 9iAS and Business Objects
  • Network manager from CSE Servelec controls network and alerts IT staff to potential problems
  • Business applications provide a commercial overview of the network  and schedule maintenance
  • MIS datawarehouse records real-time telemetry data, produces supply and demand forecasts and generates management reports

Performance

  • 99.95% availability
  • Four-second response time for critical screens
  • 5,000 batch processes
  • 120 records per second data flow rate
  • Interfaces to 17 external systems.

 

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