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Energy sector

We support energy security including developing methods for electrical measurements, and producing internationally comparable reference gases for the natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) industries.

Australia’s energy resources and infrastructure are essential to our economy

We provide independent, local, top-level measurement expertise. We support energy sector stakeholders including:

  • Australian Government, state and territory agencies and regulatory bodies
  • test and calibration laboratories at electricity and gas supply utilities 
  • specialty gas, natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) companies
  • oil industry licensees
  • National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) and NATA-accredited laboratories
  • Standards Australia
  • researchers, including universities and CSIRO
  • power equipment manufacturers
  • manufacturers of measurement instruments, including electricity and flow meters 
  • professional associations and industry groups.

Our services underpin:

  • the safe and reliable operation of Australia’s electricity and gas supply networks
  • the trade of electricity and natural gas 
  • trade of electrical measurement instruments.

Our work

We ensure:

  • the energy industry’s technical infrastructure needs are supported by a sustainable, competitive, trained and competent network of measurement laboratories, utility meter verifiers and servicing licensees 
  • measurements made by Australian laboratories, utility meter verifiers and servicing licensees are fit for purpose and accepted internationally.

We support local manufacturers that export high-voltage and high-tech gas products.

We develop solutions to the measurement challenges of metering renewable gases and hydrogen.

We also:

  • provide pattern approval testing and certification services
  • align pattern approval requirements in Australia with international recommendations to the extent they are in the national interest
  • minimise regulatory burdens through quick and cost-effective services and National Instrument Test Procedures (NITPs).

Core responsibilities 

To help Australia’s energy sector operate safely and reliably, we:

We provide:

  • calibration services
  • technical advice and consultancy
  • research and development.

We are the only provider of most high-level energy-related measurement services in Australia.

How we meet these responsibilities 

To meet these responsibilities we offer:

Our High Voltage Laboratory contains Australia’s largest high-voltage hall. We:

  • offer high-voltage calibration and impulse voltage testing
  • supply state of the art high-voltage measurement devices and software.

We also have a mobile high-voltage laboratory. The mobile laboratory can transport reference equipment and standards to client sites anywhere in Australia.

Our Londonderry Flow Facility calibrates LPG, petrol, diesel and CNG flow meters for inspectors, licensees, manufacturers and the oil industry. 

We also produce reference gases for natural gas and LNG industries to support custody transfer. 

Collaborations with industry

National Measurement Institute (NMI) collaborates with industry to support the energy sector.

New services for the LNG and LPG industries

Our discussions with Australia’s LNG and LPG stakeholders highlighted the lack of proficiency testing services for measuring LPG composition. 

We make and certify reference LPG mixtures. We also take part in a key comparison of gas composition measurements organised by the Consultative Committee for Amount of Substance (CCQM).

NMI runs proficiency training services. These support the accuracy of custody transfer values based on product composition specifications. 

CNG and LNG for transport

We worked with industry to expand our Londonderry Flow Facility to:

  • allow calibration of CNG flow meters
  • develop simple and practical test methods for LPG flow meters.

Our CNG flow meter calibration service is one of only a few worldwide to be ISO 17025 accredited.

We are working on expanding these services to LNG.

CNG and LNG burn more cleanly and generate less greenhouse emissions than petrol or diesel. 

CNG is widely used in Australian bus fleets. Industry is planning to roll out more CNG and LPG filling stations over the next few years. 

Research examples

NMI’s research supports our energy sector stakeholders.

Impulse voltage measurement

For our electricity networks to be reliable, high-voltage power equipment must be able to withstand lightning strikes. 

This means all products used in high-voltage electricity networks must be tested with artificially generated lightning voltage. 

NMI has three roles in impulse high-voltage testing in Australia.

  • We provide traceable calibrations to Australian calibration and testing laboratories.
  • We also provide testing services for voltage levels and products that are beyond the capabilities of other laboratories in the country. NMI’s high-voltage laboratory is the only laboratory in Australia that can test equipment with rated voltages of 220kV, 330kV and 500kV. For 500kV transmission systems, lightning impulse test voltages can be as high as 2400kV. 
  • We represent Australia at IEC Technical Committee 42 (IEC TC42), which develops international standards for high-voltage lightning impulse measurement and calibration.

NMI has led two IEC TC42 working groups, which revised the documentary standards that determine how dielectric testing of high-voltage apparatus is performed.

Some of these standards are now based on reference values of lightning impulse waveforms based on our research.

We offer methods and systems to implement the new standards, including a mobile facility. 

We also provide training to Australian industry through our electrical measurement courses and technical presentations at power industry conferences.

Renewable energy and smart grids

The use of new technologies like renewable electricity, distributed generation, energy efficient appliances and lighting lead to new measurement requirements.

Australian electrical calibration and testing laboratories face new challenges as the accuracy, range and versatility of electrical measuring instruments increases.

NMI conducts extensive research to meet these needs.

We have developed new services for calibration laboratories in the electrical energy sector. These include:

  • new generation quantum voltage standards. We now offer fully automated calibration of voltage references, nanovoltmeters, voltmeters and calibrators with relative uncertainties as low as 1x10-6 over the range of voltages from 1nV to 1100V. We also provide traceability to voltage dividers up to 1100V
  • new state-of-the-art primary standards of electrical power with uncertainties below 1x10-5 and complete automation which reduce calibration costs for large jobs
  • a calibration system for phasor measurement units. Phasor measurement units are used to monitor, protect and control smart grids, making them more stable and reliable. The new measurement system is synchronised to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) using timing signals derived from global navigation satellite systems.

Emerging issues

NMI’s capabilities help address emerging issues in the energy sector.

Measurement challenges for electrical energy security

Australia needs measurement science to solve the challenges of introducing energy efficient appliances and renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, into our electricity networks. 

In September 2017, with the Australian Academy of Science and the National Metrology Institute of China, NMI brought together Australian and Chinese experts from national metrology institutes, academia and industry for the Australia-China workshop: Measurement challenges for electrical energy security.
The workshop was opened by Australia’s Chief Scientist and had the support of the Australia-China Science and Research Fund

The consortium formed at this workshop will collaborate to develop new harmonic measurement and network assessment techniques to help keep electricity networks secure.

On 8 April 2019 the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology announced a Global Innovation Linkages Grant. The grant will provide over $720,000 to the University of Wollongong and other Australian industry and research organisations including NMI, as well as global partners in China and Germany, to support development. 

Other emerging issues

We’re supporting better energy efficiency and renewable power generation by:

  • improving infrasound measurement capabilities for wind farms
  • developing measurement standards to support LED lights and solar cells.

Determining the efficiency of LED lights and other new technologies requires power measurements over a wide range of frequencies. NMI was the first measurement institute in the world to introduce a power standard up to 200kHz. 

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