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Rillieux-la-Pape: a close-up, data-driven look at the underground heating network

The heating network in Rillieux-la-Pape, near Lyon, is 20 km long and has 76 substations, making it one of the most extensive networks in the region. It is also one of the oldest, built in 1970. To optimise its performance, improve the services delivered to subscribers and boost the use of renewable energies, the network operator, ENGIE Cofely, opted for the Blu.e energy management platform.


In 2011, the town of Rillieux-la-Pape picked ENGIE Cofely to manage and upgrade its district heating system. “The aim is to save energy and reduce the carbon footprint,” says Émilie Patin, energy efficiency engineer at ENGIE Cofely. “But because the piping dates from over 50 years ago, the substations weren’t communicating properly with each other. It was hard to see when they shared information and when the data exchange came to an abrupt halt. The heating network was effectively delivering heat to the subscribers, but this computer bug hampered the operating team’s management and responsiveness.”


Supervising the production and distribution of heat

To solve the communication problems, ENGIE Cofely began by installing instruments to supervise the heat flows. However this was not sufficient: “We could see what was happening on the production side,” says Émilie Patin, “but not how the heat was being carried through the pipes. We didn’t know about problems until a subscriber reported them.”

This is where Blu.e stepped in and collected all of the network data in a single data base so that it could analyse it and improve performance. “The Blu.e engineers, the industrial division and the operating team from ENGIE Cofely together defined a whole series of useful indicators, such as the heat return temperature or the position of the substation regulator valves,” adds Émilie Patin.


Rillieux-la-Pape Underground networks


Pinpointing problems as they occur

With the Blu.e platform, operators can locate problems in real time, using a simple system of warning lights on a plan of the network: if the temperature or pressure in the pipes is not within the acceptable range, the light turns red. No need to try to locate the problem: the network employees know exactly which zone to inspect.

For the customers, it’s a guarantee of continuity of service. “We can locate a leak in the underground network before the subscriber even becomes aware of it. We notify the subscriber of the problem, fix it, and everything is back in working order without the customer feeling the slightest discomfort. This new quality of service improves relations with our subscribers!” All this is achieved without the leak detected on the subscriber side disrupting the operation of the network as a whole.

To avoid any inconvenience, the managers make certain adjustments, with the effects then showing up in real time on the Blu.e screen: a foolproof way of making the right decision!


Optimising heat recovery and renewable energy usage

Among the indicators displayed on the dashboard, ENGIE Cofely also asked Blu.e to compare the actual rate of renewable energy coverage of the network with the rate that should ideally be obtained, depending on the weather forecasts and the amount of power required on the network.

Here again, the operators can see at a glance the impact of activating or shutting down a particular heat source, such as waste heat recovered from the Rillieux-la-Pape waste incineration plant, a biomass plant or a gas boiler.

By allowing operators to fine-tune flows in the network, the Blu.e tool can help optimise the energy mix used to heat residential buildings in Rillieux-la-Pape: in practice, 91% of the energy used is renewable energy.

“We started using the platform only recently, in November 2017,” concludes Émilie Patin. “But already our operators are seeing the benefits. It brings them greater peace of mind and faster response times.”


In figures


waste heat recovered from the waste-to-energy plant


biomass energy


gas energy


homes supplied with heating and domestic hot water