Customers expect us to ensure a safe infrastructure and guarantee their safety while we perform our work. The safety of our networks for everyone involved is then naturally our highest priority. We continuously invest in the reliability of our infrastructure based on information regarding the condition of our network. In addition, all network operators have drawn up a replacement plan for old gas pipes that are sensitive to ground movement.
Accelerating the replacement programme
On 27 January 2019, a gas explosion took place in The Hague in the gas network of Stedin. In 2019, in its report on this gas explosion, the Dutch State Supervision of Mines recommended accelerating the current programme for the replacement of grey cast iron and asbestos cement gas pipes. There are currently still around 1,300 kilometres of these grey cast iron pipes and 209 kilometres of asbestos cement pipes in our service area, comprising some 3% of our total gas pipelines network. In consultation with partners, we are acting on this recommendation and accelerating the programme so that all pipes of this nature are replaced by 2032. Until then, we will periodically inspect these pipes to ensure they are safe.
Besides replacing pipes, we also check daily for very small gas leaks using highly sensitive equipment so that we can address even the slightest gas escape at a very early stage, before this can pose a problem. As always, safety is our top priority. We remain alert to changing situations and new risks, and give high priority to the replacement of pipes wherever necessary.
Follow-up inspections of gas installations
With safety in mind, we do not make concessions when it comes to inspections. And yet it is sometimes difficult for us to gain entrance to homes. Last year, as a pilot, we went to court to be allowed to conduct a follow-up inspection of the gas installation in ten homes. This approach is new and is in line with the recommendations of the Dutch State Supervision of Mines, which urged network operators to make every effort to carry out inspections, communicate the importance of safety, and be transparent and open with customers. We are considering using this step more often in the future and also applying it in other situations where we are currently unable to gain access.
Resolving and preventing outages
We employ a targeted approach when dealing with incidents that arise in the gas or electricity network. In addition, we do everything we can to prevent unsafe situations for employees and others in the vicinity. For example, in 2019 we worked on replacing and closing medium-voltage substations that have limited or inadequate protection. As this will take some time, additional measures aimed at promoting safe working practices in such spaces will apply until this work has been completed.
Besides this, in 2019, together with Stedin and Enexis we started the Veilig graven (Know What’s Below) campaign aimed at preventing outages and gas escapes and other unsafe situations. Around 10% of the damage arising from excavation work is caused by consumers. They often do not know that there can be underground cables and pipes in their garden, and they generally do not understand the risks they face when digging. The campaign is aimed at raising awareness about how to dig safely.