Veolia uses AI to monitor Sheffield district energy network

Veolia, on behalf of Sheffield City Council, is now using the latest AI tool in the UK to extend the efficiency of one of Sheffield’s oldest and most successful district energy schemes.

The data-driven thermohydraulic modelling tool has completed an extensive trial and integration phase and is now being used to optimise temperature and network pressure over the 44km long network. By taking real-time data from across the network, including data collection from the individual heat meters that serve connected buildings, and predicting heat demand and weather patterns, the system is expected to reduce peak loads by up to 20% and increase the heat delivery capability by 25%.

The Sheffield District Energy Network has been operating since 1988. It supplies low-carbon energy from the Sheffield Energy Recovery Facility, which converts non-recyclable household waste to generate heat supplies for the district heating scheme. Over 50% of the heat qualifies as renewable under the Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGO) scheme and is supplied to over 125 commercial and public sector buildings, including the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield City Hall, Weston Park Hospital, the Universities, and the Millennium Galleries.

To achieve major increases in efficiency, the AI software takes data inputs from multiple sources and sensors across the network. It combines this with external data to provide full network modelling and scenario planning.

The system then calculates potential heat losses in individual underground pipe sections and internal pipework in plant rooms and energy centres and optimises the energy consumption of the buildings. This means common problems such as hydronic bottlenecks are avoided, limiting any potentially disruptive and costly retrofits on the underground heat networks and improving fault tolerance and energy consumption estimation.

Donald Macphail, Chief Operating Officer – Treatment, at Veolia, said: “In the UK, almost half of the final energy consumed is used as heat, and the domestic, commercial and public sectors account for two-thirds of this consumption for space heating and water heating.

“As we move to reduce climate impact, we need to decarbonise these important heat requirements, and district heating systems are a proven technology to help reduce this carbon footprint. By integrating the network in Sheffield with the latest artificial intelligence, we have advanced efficiency and taken another important step towards a net zero future.”

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