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New research provides insight into protecting future energy infrastructure from natural hazards

13 November 2018

Mike Middleton
Mike Middleton Strategy Manager

Natural hazards, such as extreme weather combined with the effects of climate change, have the potential to cause damage or disruption to the UK’s existing and future energy system infrastructure. The level of protection afforded to assets within this system are for operators, owners and regulators to decide. These decisions impact the resilience of our energy system and such decisions can be better informed and supported through the application of consistently documented good practice in characterising the range of natural hazards relevant to the UK.

This is why we undertook the project and have made the knowledge available to industry, organisations and individuals with the assistance of the IMechE and IChemE. We anticipate that this knowledge may be useful to designers, operators, regulators, owners and investors. It can be applied to new assets during design, or investment in existing assets through upgrades or life extension. Although developed in association with the UK’s energy system, the knowledge potentially has relevance to broader infrastructure including transport and the built environment.

Hugo Winter Natural Hazards and Environment R&D Manager at the EDF Energy R&D UK Centre and Chief Technical Officer for the project

The suite of documents available after this project provide a consistent assessment of the risks posed by a variety of natural hazards to UK energy infrastructure. The technical volumes summarise relevant good practice for characterising each natural hazard and are supported by a set of case studies which illustrate how the available data and methods for each hazard can be used to provide a site-specific assessment.

This is one of the first projects to cut across such a variety of hazards. One aim is to move away from the development of research in silos and thus highlight potential synergies; it is also anticipated that these documents will sit as a bridge between academia and industry. To support these aims, additional research has been undertaken in this project on a selection of less well understood hazards (e.g. space weather, marine biofouling) to bring the understanding closer to the level of more well-known hazards (e.g. flooding). This has been successfully delivered with the expert consortium including EDF Energy, the Met Office and Mott MacDonald.

Dr Jenifer Baxter Head of Engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers

As a professional engineering institution, projects like this are crucial to sharing best practice. Every year we see extreme weather events unfolding all over the world and having information to hand, like that provided from this project, will help our engineers design resilient infrastructure for future generations.

Claudia Flavell-While Director of Policy and Publications at the Institution of Chemical Engineers

Extreme weather events are on the rise around the world, and we have to expect that natural hazards will continue to pose a significant risk to energy infrastructure. We are proud of the role our members have played in developing these documents, and the role we can play in sharing.

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