Technology & Innovation

German energy giant E.ON has developed and deployed technology using artificial intelligence to predict and locate deficiencies in the operation of electricity grids long before they escalate into failure and power outages. This AI-based method has been in use at medium voltage grids of Schleswig-Holstein Netz, a grid operator belonging to E.ON Group, for around nine months.

Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions and Iwatani have teamed up to establish the viability of a locally-based hydrogen supply chain in Japan’s Hokkaido prefecture. Specifically for this project, Toshiba ESS constructed a small-scale hydropower project whose electricity is being used to electrolyze water and separate hydrogen, which is then transported by Iwatani to generate electricity, using Toshiba fuel cells.

Swedish battery developer Northvolt, founded 2016, has entered a technology partnership with Siemens to jointly set up the first large-scale lithium-ion battery cell production in Europe. Siemens will support the venture through a €10 million investment that helps digitalize Northvolt’s value chain from the design of the battery cell to production and services. Once completed in 2020, Siemens intends to purchase batteries from the factory by making Northvolt a preferred supplier.

Siemens has opened a new competence center for digital precision in industrial 3D printing, the Additive Manufacturing Experience Center (Amec), on its campus in Erlangen, Germany. Amec targets machine builders, power plant operators and companies who use additive manufacturing to design and construct workpieces. Digitalization hereby plays a central role.

Drax Group, together with C-Capture, has announced plans to pilot the first bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BCCS) project in Europe. The demonstration project will see Drax invest £400,000 in what it says “could be the first of several pilot projects” to deliver a rapid, lower cost demonstration of BECCS that could accelerate the commercialization of carbon capture in the UK.

An international team of scientists has discovered a mechanism for the formation of the simplest polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH), naphthalene. This mechanism is now being used to create physically-based combustion models as the basis for fundamentally new, ecologically friendly combustion chambers for gas turbine engines.

New Swiss law mandates the installation of smart electricity meters which increases the data volume of the energy infrastructure firm BKW Group more than 40,000-fold. Hence BWK approached Siemens to install a cloud-based data management system for power consumption data. The launch of the EnergyIP system will occur in early 2019.

Keen to service cross-fleet power generation equipment, GE has developed a range of capabilities to advance the performance and reliability of other original equipment manufacturers’ (OEM) gas turbine, such as Siemens’ SGT-800 and Mitsubishi’s 501F units. At a press tour to Birr, Switzerland, GE revealed it has over $200 million in cross-fleet orders backlog.

South Korea-based Kokam, a leading battery solutions provider, has deployed the world’s largest lithium ion battery – a 30MW system with 11.4 MWh energy storage – for the Australian utility Alinta Energy. Based on Kokam's Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide battery technology, the storage solution is being used in an islanded high voltage network to improve the electricity supply to iron ore producers in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Digitalization of power plant management is posing serious challenges for many traditional utilities. More than half of the respondents of Contigo’s latest survey said they “are finding it hard to understand developments such as Blockchain, Cloud and Big Data” and do not have appropriate systems in place to meet the demands of a changing energy market place.

Linde North America, together with the University of Illinois, has won two U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grants worth $3.65 million to research and improve technologies to capture carbon emissions from power plants. The two projects started in April and are the first step in deploying CCS technology at a large pilot plant.

Delivering solutions to help power producers stay competitive, GE Power Services has introduced its new 7F DLN2.6+ Flex upgrade solution at the annual 7F Users Group’s annual conference in Atlanta. The upgrade leverages GE’s DLN 2.6+ combustor and combining it with new Axial Fuel Staging (AFS) technology.

Compact Gas Insulated (GIS) switchgear, produced by the Swiss manufacturer ABB, has been ordered by Indonesia’s state-owned power utility PLN to facilitate reliable supply of electricity and enhance grid reliability. In Indonesia, the largest economy in Southeast Asia,  electricity demand continues to grow – not least because the government in Jakarta seeks to have all households connected to the national electricity grid by 2025 and executes an ambitious program to add 35,000 MW of new capacity to the grid.

Where no pipeline or electrical grid exists, Chart offers solutions enabling clients to access natural gas, through LNG for on-site power generation. For a Canadian client, the operator of a diamond mine, six of Chart’s horizontal regas tanks provide almost half a million of LNG storage for seven 2.1 MW gas-fuelled power generator sets and despite the extreme climatic conditions, the project in Canada was completed on schedule.

Technology changes that come with the energy transition are far-reaching, notably for power grid operators tasked with having to keep the balance between supply and demand. “Of course, target we are aiming for is a “full 3D” system, i.e. a system that is 100% decentralized, 100% decarbonized and 100% digitalized,” says Thierry Lepercq, executive vice president at ENGIE in charge of Research & Technology.

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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.