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The AECOM canal, aka “The Natural Grid” · PDF file •Rivers, streams, canals...

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  • The AECOM canal, aka “The Natural Grid”

    David Weight

  • • In 2009, the government’s chief scientist, Sir John Beddington, warned of a perfect storm of problems by 2030. He said:

    “Our food reserves are at a 50-year low, but by 2030 we need to be

    producing 50 per cent more food. At the same time, we will

    need 50 per cent more energy, and 30 per cent more fresh water”.

    • Can piecemeal measures be sufficient in the long term, or do we need a bigger plan?

    Summary of need:

  • Functions:

    • Water storage and supply

    • Transportation

    • Power transmission

    • Communication link to data centres

    • District heating

    • Cooling

    • Opportunities for regeneration and eco-towns / eco-villages

    • Flood relief?

    • Leisure and tourism

    • Biodiversity

    Canal from Scottish Borders to S.E. England

  • • Leakage control

    • Treated sewage effluent/reuse

    • Groundwater recharge (from stormwater/flood events)

    • Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD)

    • Beneficial, but will it meet the need?

    Existing water industry basket of measures

    (Maybe not fully utilised?)

  • Original plan was close to the

    300 foot contour throughout

    No locks through main route!

    Many lifts down to existing

    canals and navigable rivers.

    1942 Pownall Grand Tour Canal planhttp://www.waterwaysworld.com/latest.cgi?month=062011&start=20

  • • Public water supply

    • Serving power stations

    • Industrial processes

    • Rivers, streams, canals and aquifers

    • Agriculture – could serve farm reservoirs

    • Sustainable abstractions reducing dramatically.

    • ICE “State of the Nation – Water 2012” report Three quarters of our water needs are met by water resources from other nations!

    Water supply

  • • Water companies in the South-East are facing pressure and supply problems from: – Population growth

    – Climate change

    – and reduction in permissible abstractions. (Loss of water for just Anglia, Thames and Affinity, will be about 600Ml/day- about 320m m3 p.a.)

    • They are intending do respond with a mix of measures, but mainly: – Addressing leakage, and demand reduction (incl metering)

    – Transfers between river basins within regions and between regions

    – New reservoirs, and

    – Desalination plants

    Water supply

  • • Huge unmet water demand, especially in South East

    • We currently only grow 59% of the food we consume in the UK

    Water supply

    • Kielder water could supply about 900Ml/day (329m m3 p.a.).

    • However, in event of drought in NE, may need to supply The Tyne and Tees areas through existing links, so may only have 450Ml/day for areas further south.

    • But opportunities to get water from NW of Kielder if needed long term + opportunities for pumped hydro generation / storage.

    • STOR (short term operating reserve) technologies command enhanced revenue / kWhr

    • Pumped hydro is the most efficient and responsive of all STOR technologies

    Water demand for food

  • Rainfall. http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/media/pdf/6/i/No._04_-_Climate_of_the_British_Isles.pdf

  • Areas of over-abstraction:


  • The need to span climate zones: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2011/spring-rainfall-contrast

  • Advantages

    • No pumping or energy required. Instead, small hydro generation expected.

    • Amenity benefits: leisure boating, walking, cycling, nature wetlands, water parks, etc.

    • Some freight transport

    • Scope for water-based eco-towns and eco-villages.

    • Transmission route for HVDC power

    • Route for district heating and for data comms.

    • Rich bio diversity opportunities


    • Less direct (more meanders)

    • Leakage and evaporation

    • Pollution

    • Route for invasive species

    • Greater planning problems

    • Maintenance?

    Canals versus pipelines

  • Useful contours running down through England

  • Using GIS to find least cost route

  • Overview of plan

    Size of canal is undecided.

    Original idea was strongly

    influenced by transport, and was,

    25m wide x 4.5m deep

    Flowing at an average speed of 0.3


    Providing about 2,600 Ml/day

    BUT Could be as small as 5m wide

    x 4.2m deep flowing at avg 0.3m/

    sec which would provide only about

    500 Ml/day, while still providing

    spin-off benefits

  • • Canal length approximately 620 km

    • Direct distance approximately 450 km

    • Around 5 to 7 locks of between 5 to 15m drop each

    • Scope for micro-hydro generation at locks

    • Phasing:

    • Phase 1 intended to run from Kielder reservoir down to the existing canal network near Leeds.

    • Could benefit areas further south through existing links (a cascade effect)

    Canal Characteristics

  • Power and transmission - Scottish Generation Policy

    Statement http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/03/9434

    • Target is 14 – 16 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2020,

    • But planning 30 GW with a view to export

    • If and when wave and or deep off-shore wind becomes viable, then the potential is way beyond 30 GW

    • Current intention: some routed by Irish Sea, some by North Sea

    • Prospect of a link to Iceland looks likely.

    • Intend to have more pumped-hydro power (which might suit expansion in later phases)

  • Planned Western Link


    420klm to Deeside

    Approx £1,000,000,000

    (Siemens and Prysmian)

  • • Cheaper than under-sea and with much less risk

    • Could upgrade in smaller stages (like 500 MW stages)

    • Easy to monitor and maintain

    • Secure

    • Water will cool cables and improve transmission efficiency (2.4 times more current per mm2, than the equivalent cable if it’s buried)

    • Very easy to add cables to increase transmission strength as more generation comes on stream

    • Avoids the planning problems of pylons

    • Following discussions, the National Grid are evaluating this proposal.

    Power transmission: advantages of canal as a power corridor

  • Canal section

  • • From ICE “State of the Nation – Transport 2013” ,specific recommendations, included:

    “Supporting continued mode shift from road to rail, short sea shipping and inland waterways”

    Inshore water transport has lower CO2e / klm Tonne than rail and very much lower than road

    Carbon taxes set to rise steeply after 2020.


  • • Construction materials – mainly raw materials like aggregates and stone

    • Coal

    • Timber

    • Biomass, including timber, pellets, miscanthus, and straw

    • Metals

    • Oil and petroleum

    • Cars

    • Manufactured non-perishables

    • Chemicals

    • Containerised goods generally

    • Waste and recyclates

    • Abnormal / wide loads.


  • • DECC have set a target of using 50m T p.a. of biomass by 2020.

    • If we assume that say, 10% of this goes to inland power stations like Drax, via a canal, that’s 5m T p.a.

    • If we use 400T barges, that’s about 50 return trips per day! Or 500 40 tonne lorries

    • And that’s just one market


  • • Canals currently used to transport many items in the UK: – Tesco Wine to Manchester

    – Domestic waste in London

    – Timber on the Caledonian

    • Canals play a significant role on the continent: – Mitsubishi, Ford and Renault cars on the Danube

    – Tata Steel from own wharf in Rotterdam

    But much more applicable to wider canals. Is it worth it?

    Transport Examples:

  • • Kielder to Leeds to South Derbyshire to Hertford, then probably, Tilbury

    • Could supply coal from Derbyshire to Eggborough and Ferrybridge (or replacements)

    • Biomass to Drax Power station

    • Link to Humber Estuary oil refineries

    • Material from quarries

    • Steel to Humber Ports for export

    Route Options

  • • Low tech nature of most work generates high economic multiplier effects.

    • Good opportunities for eco-towns / villages around pounds, basins and arms

    • Could be funded partly though uplifts in property prices and rental values.

    Economic aspects:

  • • Crossings and obstacles

    • Rights of way, planning consents for canal

    • Address potential corridor route for invasive species

    • Risk of

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