Technology & Innovation

Siemens, the state of Saxony and the Fraunhofer Institute have signed a ‘future pact for Görlitz’ and committed to invest around €30 million to develop a competence center for hydrogen technologies. The initiative is meant to ease the effects of region’s structural transformation which has been hit by Siemens’ closure of a long-running turbine manufacturing site.

Power system flexibility is a prerequisite of the clean energy transformation. Fossil power plants were for long deemed vital to ensure flexible supply and system inertia, but “if modern wind and solar power plants are technically able to provide frequency regulation, they should be allowed access to ancillary services, as was done in Spain,” said Enrique Gutierrez, energy analyst at the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Energy use of crypto-currencies – bitcoin in particular – has been criticized as 'unsustainable' although estimates are wide-ranging at 20‑80 Terrawatt-Hours (TWh) annually. Through the first six months of 2019 bitcoin mining consumed some 29 TWh, up significantly from around 45 TWh in 2018, the International Energy Agency (IEA) finds.

ExxonMobil and Global Thermostat, an R&D firm, are testing an agile solution of soaking up carbon dioxide emissions from the air – notably from industrial facilities and power stations – at a pilot plant in California. Once economically viable, the solution could help meet the world’s climate goals.

Turbine inlet temperatures already exceed the melting points of turbine blade materials in modern facilities but researchers have come up with a novel approach to turn the heat even higher. Nekomimi film cooling, developed by Kawasaki and B&B Agema, allows to further increase temperatures at the combustor exit and high-pressure turbine stage inlet.

Pouakai NZ, part of the US infrastructure investor 8 Rivers Capital, is developing a clean hydrogen, fertiliser and power generation facility at a cost of up to $4 billion. The plant, designed to produce clean hydrogen for use in power generation and supercritical CO2 for enhanced oil recovery, is expected start operations by 2024.

Engineers at Belfort, GE’s crisis-struck manufacturing site in eastern France, are manufacturing the first of four Arabelle steam turbines for the Akkuyu nuclear power project in Turkey. All other components for the landmark 4.8 Gigawatt (GW) nuclear power unit will also be built in France.

The European Union has dedicated €4 million ($4.5m) for research on new designs for biogas-fuelled, small-scale cogeneration engines - in a bid to open up the heat and power sector for mainstream renewables. Named SmartCHP, the solution could have a market potential of up to €4billion, according to the lead research coordinator, BTG Biomass Technology Group.

Comparing fuel costs, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said hydrogen-based direct iron reduction for steel production could allow for substitution to green energy – if the hydrogen is generated from electrolysis. “Hydrogen could become an attractive option to indirectly electrify industrial high-temperature heat," analysts said, "either via direct combustion or blending with natural gas.”

General Electric has decided to close down the 750 MW Inland Empire Energy Center (IEEC) in California some 20 years before the end of its lifetime. The steam-cooled H-class turbines had taken hours to start and repeatedly suffered technical problems, which hampered a swift dispatch of the CCGT and ultimately rendered it uneconomical.

Feasible Inc., a Californian battery analytics platform company, has received a major cash injection from Chrysalix Venture Capital’s RoboValley Fund to help promote its newly-developed intelligence platform EchoStat. Based on real-time analytics, the system provides actionable insight to solve challenges related to battery design and manufacturing.

General Electric has developed three new grid analytic methods that combine domain expertise with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to tackle challenges in electric grid operations. The offer addresses storm readiness, network connectivity and inertia in a bid to enable more stable grid operations and security of power supply.

Norwegian energy giant Statkraft and flexible grid specialist Statera have entered a 15-year partnership to develop a 1 GW virtual power plant (VPP) in the UK. Consisting of flexible reciprocating gas and energy storage, the VPP will match demand with supply from various energy sources “within seconds.” Ultimately, the partnership is meant to bring Statkraft’s VPP capacity to 2 GW.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries of Japan is advancing the development of a floating power plant that will operate on regasified LNG, targeting utility customers in remote areas of Southeast Asia. The barge-based LNG-to-Power solution will be the first of its kind able to generate 100,000 kilowatts of electricity.

‘Ready-to-go’ power supply is on offer from Wärsilä’s Modular Block - a modularly configured, and expandable enclosure for Wärtsilä medium-speed 34SG gas engine generators. The pre-fabricated solution reduces on-site installation time from several months to a few weeks.

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News in Brief

Blackout after fire at Madison substation

July 22 – Electricity is gradually being restored at Madison, Wisconsin, after 13,000 people experience a blackout following an explosion at a substation near Madison Gas & Electric’s 100 MW gas-fired Blount Generating Station. No injuries were reported.

Fuel switch could abate 1.2bn tons of CO2

July 19 – Some 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 could be abated by switching to gas using existing infrastructure, if prices and regulation are supportive. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), this would be enough to bring global CO2 emissions back down to where they were in 2013.

IEA launches methane tracker

July 18 – A new ‘methane tracker’, launched by the International Energy Agency (IEA), provides up-to-date estimates of current oil and gas methane emissions by drawing on the best available data. Analysts stressed methane emissions could be reduced by nearly half at no net cost.

Canada’s CO2 tax also affects gas power

July 17 – Change in Canada’s carbon tax regulation for new power plants has changed to also affect cleaner-burning, gas combined-cycle power stations starting from 2021. The move could cause SaskPower to reconsider its planned upcoming Moose Jaw gas power station.

MAN, Daewoo, HSD partner on engine digitalization

July 16 – MAN Energy Solutions, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) and HSD Engine (HSD) have signed a strategic agreement to cooperate in the field of marine engine systems digitization. The three companies also work together on auxiliary systems and data analysis, aiming to apply part of their know-how to power generation and related sectors.

Canada launches first utility-scale smart microgid

July 15 – The Ontario-based municipal utility North Bay Hydro Services is cooperating with the smart grid solutions firm S&C Electric to launch Canada’s first utility-scale microgrid system. Among some solar power, the 789KW microgrid system will be powered by two 265kW natural gas generators.

Macquarie funds Mexican power plant

July 12 – Macquarie Capital has chosen Credit Agricole, Natixis and SMBC to co-finance a $380 million combined-cycle gas power plant. The 560 MW plant is designated to be built in San Louis Potosi, a city in central Mexico.

B&V launches distributed energy group

July 11 – Black & Veatch has launched a dedicated distributed energy group to place its conventional power business in the context of the global energy transition. The distribute energy group will look into new fuel sources such as hydrogen and aspires to “re-power the more-than-century-old power industry.”

Funding secured for Kazah CHP project

July 10 – Kazinform Erg has committed to spend $500 million on a gas cogeneration station that will provide heat and electricity to the south of Kazakhstan. Over 87% of Kazakhstan’s electricity is generated from fossil fuels, and in 2018 the country produced 107,060 billion kWh of electricity, a 3.8% increase over the previous year and enough to cover total power use of 103,228 kWh.

Bitcoin mining uses much energy

July 9 – Estimates of bitcoin’s electricity consumption are wide-ranging, on the order of 20‑80 TWh annually. According to George Kamiya, digital energy analyst at the International Energy Agency (IEA), bitcoin mining consumed around 45 TWh in 2018 although this has risen significantly this year. Through the first six months of 2019, bitcoin mining has already consumed an estimated 29 TWh.

Coal exit doesn’t impact Germany's supply security

July 8 – Electricity supply security in Germany is set to stay “very high” even as the country begins to phase out coal-fired power generation, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) said in a monitoring report. “Energy supply is adequately ensured”, the ministry said, in all scenarios examined up to 2030. Thereafter, things are less clear but the German Coal Commission is adamant that its proposal to exit coal power by 2038 is feasible and won’t seriously impact reserve margins.

Hydrogen demo plant starts in Adelaide

July 5 – The Australian Gas Networks (AGN), part of the Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG), has received A$4.9 million in government funding for an A$11.4m hydrogen electrolyser demonstration project at the Tonsley Innovation District in Adelaide. At the test site, AGN plans to blend 5% renewable hydrogen with natural gas for supply to customers using its existing gas distribution networks. The project is based on a Siemens proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyser, running based on wind and solar power.

Wärtsilä forms biogas solution

July 4 – Wärtsilä Puregas Solutions, specialists in biogas upgrading technology, has merged with Wärtsilä’s biogas liquefaction team to create a one-stop-shop service for biofuel production. Having installed the world’s largest bioLNG facility in Skogn, Norway, Wärtsilä will deliver two more bio-LNG plants to customers in Scandinavia. The company’s Puregas CA process recovers more than 99.9% of the biomethane present in raw biogas.

PNM to close San Juan Generating Station

July 3 — New Mexico's largest energy holding, PNM Resources, has filed an application to the Public Regulation Commission to close the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station. For replacement power, PNM said the preferred option was a mix of gas power plants, solar and wind farms and new battery storage facilities. The utility strives to be ‘emissions-free’ by 2040.

ADB opens office in Singapore

July 2 — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has decided to open an office in Singapore. The lean office with twelve staff will focus on the expansion of its private sector operations, e.g. through Public-Private Partnerships. “We estimate that developing Asia will need $1.7 trillion per year in infrastructure investments until 2030 to maintain the region’s growth momentum,” commented Singapore’s finance minister Heng Swee Keat.

Testing starts at Haliade-X

July 1 – Technology testing has started at GE’s Haliade-X, the world’s biggest offshore wind turbine. The 12 MW nacelle and 107-metre long blade was shipped to the UK as part of an advanced technology testing program, focused on enhancing the platform before it enters into serial production in 2021.

Tata to build UK’s first CCUS plant

June 28 – Tata Chemicals has announced plans to build the UK’s first industrial-scale Carbon Capture, Usage and Demonstration plant at its Northwich industrial site. The CCUD unit will be built at an estimated cost of£16.7 million and is planned to start operation in 2021. It will make use of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel power plants and turn it into sodium bicarbonate, which can then be sold to pharmaceutical industries.