Technology & Innovation

Graz’s Large Engines Competence Center (LEC) and INNIO, formerly part of GE, have been researching and developing regenerative fuels like hydrogen and hydrogen carrier gases such as synthetic natural gas, methanol or ammonia. The aim is to build gas engines that are virtually emissions free.

SoftBank Vision Fund is investing $110 million in the Swiss startup Energy Vault which developed an innovative technology to store energy in stacked concrete blocks. This method is more economical than lithium-ion batteries, Energy Vault claims, simply because cement and sand are cheap materials.

After breakthroughs in curbing energy related emissions, industrial decarbonisation is the next frontier. At zero-carbon electricity prices below $50/MWh, using electricity for heat in industrial processes becomes more economical than carbon capture and storage (CCS), McKinsey finds.

National Iranian Gas Transmission Company (NIGTC) claims its engineers have gained the necessary know-how to repair Siemens gas turbines. NIGTC chief executive Saeid Tavakoli said the company carried out overhauls of SGT600 turbines by solely relying on domestic contractors.

Silent-Power Project, a Swiss technology start-up, is producing of CO2-neutral electricity from methanol. CEO Urs Weidmann told Gas to Power Journal the company aims to achieve an annual production of 1 million liters of carbon neutral methanol with its first synthesis plant by 2020.

Hybrid HHO Gas, a developed by Eneco, is capable of generating large volumes of oxyhydrogen gas using only a small amount of electricity. The new technology is expected to cut the price of HHO gas by more than two-thirds of the current average price.

Three partners – MAN Energy Solutions, Hydrogenious LOHC Technologies and Frames Group – have joint forces to design and build large energy storages, based on Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carrier (LOHC) technology. The companies already offer systems with hydrogen capacities of 5 and 12 tons per day.

US Well Services, a provider of well simulation for gas fracking, has mobilized PW Power System’s FT8 Mobilepac at its wellpads. The fast-ramp 30 MW aero-derivative gas turbines can balance large and sudden changes in power demand that are typical for hydraulic fracturing.

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.

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News in Brief

Slow start of STT pipeline

Oct 18 – U.S. gas exports to Mexico have not picked up substantially despite the start of the Sur de Texas-Tuxpan (STT) pipeline. Exports are still below 6.0 billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d), although there no current postings regarding maintenance on the Sistrangas pipeline that feeds from NET Mexico.

EIB defers ban on fossil projects

Oct 17 – Luxembourg-based European Investment Bank (EIB) has bowed to pressure from Germany and the European Commission and deferred its decision to ban loans to fossil-fuel projects until mid-November. Germany wants the bank to keep financing gas-fired power projects as it views the cleaner-burning fossil fuel as a vital backup for renewable energy sources.

Brexit will not impact UK gas supply

Oct 16 – Security of power and gas supply in the UK will not be jeopardized this winter by the country’s imminent departure from the European Union, even in the event of a hard Brexit, National Grid said. In its assessment, the TSO factored in a halt to flows via the Belgium and Dutch gas interconnectors “from EU exit day one”, but said ongoing deliveries from Norway, the UK Continental Shelf and storage will continue as usual.

Ferrybridge C gets demolished

Oct 15 – Four cooling towers at the Ferrybridge Power Station have been taken down as the coal-fired power station will make way to a new, high-efficiency gas power station. Operator SSE shut down the 500 MW Ferrybridge C unit in March 2016 and now started to tear it down.

Global energy storage tops 10 GW by 2025

Oct 14 – The global market for grid-connected energy storage will grow by 6,900 MW, or 16.6% to reach over 10,500 MW by the end of 2025, according to Reportlinker.com. Germany will add over 267 MW energy storage installations over the next five to six years, while 330 MW will come from other European markets. These numbers are dwarfed by China, where up to 1,200 MW energy storage units could be connected to the grid by 2025.

Wärtsilä services EDL plant

Oct 11 – Energy Developments Ltd (EDL) of Australia has awarded Wärtsilä a service contract for gas engine-based baseload power plant at the McArthur River zinc mine in Northern Territory. The maintenance approach for the 53 MW onsite power plant is no longer pre-planned and scheduled but has been changed to condition-based and predictive maintenance, with an advisory contract.

EPH buys CCGT in Galway

Oct 10 – The Czech energy company EPH has received regulatory approval to purchase an 80% stake in the 400 MW Tynagh Energy combined-cycle gas power plant in Galway, Ireland. Mountainside Partners will continue to own the remaining stake in the CCGT, which operates based on a security-of-supply contract from the Irish TSO based on guaranteed power prices.

ITM gets £38m boost from Linde

Oct 9 – Sheffield-based ITM Power, maker of electrolysers for hydrogen production, has been boosted by a £38 million cash injection, as Linde acquired a 20% stake in ITM at 40 pence per share. Looking ahead, ITM said it is seeking to raise £14 million from new and existing institutional investors.

Drax to convert two power units

Oct 8 – Drax Group has received government approval to convert up to two coal-fired generating units at its power station in North Yorkshire to run on natural gas. With this ruling, the UK regulator overturned objections by ClientEarth, stressing some fossil power is vital for the UK to backup intermittent renewable power source.

Storage use tops 80% in key U.S. regions

Oct 7 – Gas storage utilization in the United States is rising in the autumn, with net injections topping 112 billion cubic feet (Bcf) in the first week of October. According to EIA figures, underground storages are at least 80% full in the East, Midwest, and South Central non-salt regions, allowing for seasonal withdrawals to help meet peak-day gas demand throughout the upcoming winter.

Maine, NY aspire to 100% clean energy

Oct 4 – Three U.S. states—Maine, New York, and Ohio—have updated their renewable portfolio standards (RPS), since May 2019. As a result, Maine and New York joined California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia in requiring 100% clean electricity by 2050.

TransAlta to built CHP in Alberta

Oct 3 – Canada-based Transalta and SemCAMS Midstream have agreed to develop, construct and operate a new cogeneration facility at the Kaybob South No. 3 sour gas processing plant in Alberta. To be built at a cost of some 105 million, the CHP will have an installed capacity of 40 MW. Start of commercial operation is targeted for late 2021.

GE’s 100th HA turbine sold in Greece

Oct 2 – Greek industrial firm Mytilineos has ordered a GE 9HA.02 gas turbine to be the heart of the 826 MW Agios Nikolaos combined-cycle gas power plant. This deal also marks the 100th unit of GE’s HA gas turbine sold. Construction of the CCGT is due to start before the end of the year.

ABB launches M4M analyzer

Oct 1 – Swiss technology firm ABB has launches its first Bluetooth-equipped network analyzers, called M4M. The system gathers data from distribution grids and connects them to a cloud-based control system, allowing users to react on energy consumption and on-site power generation trends.

Microsoft invests in wind power

Sept 30 – Microsoft and ENGIE have entered a long-term solar and wind energy power purchase agreement (PPA) in the United States. The deal will see Microsoft purchase a total of 230 MW from two ENGIE projects in Texas, bringing Microsoft’s renewable energy portfolio to more than 1,900 MW.

Gazprom tackles issue of ownerless gas grid

Sept 27 – Gazprom, the main supplier of pipeline gas to Europe, is trying to settle the issue of ownerless gas pipelines – a relic of the former Soviet Union. Abandoned gas transmission pipeline spanned 6,651 kilometers as of March 1, with the issue seen as “especially acute” in the North Caucasus region where half of this infrastructure is located. If no owner registers these facilities within three months, Gazprom will take over to ensure reliability and safety.

Investors flock to Myanmar

Sept 26 – Fitch Ratings has singled out Myanmar’s power sector as one of the largest beneficiaries of foreign direct investments (FDI) worldwide. Nearly $21.2 billion was poured into power generation and energy infrastructure projects thus far in 2019, which is 27% of total FDI under the Myanmar Investment Law.