Technology & Innovation

Stanford Strategic Energy Alliance has been granted $20 million in funding over five years by ExxonMobil for research and development (R&D) on low-carbon energy solutions. The alliance’s other suitor is Bank of America which committed $7.5 million to clean energy research. Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy, which will manage the industry funded R&D program, is in advanced talks with other energy companies to join the alliance.

Britain’s Newcastle-based Northern Powergrid has launched a six-stage programme aimed at reducing losses on its electricity network that includes the analysis of smart meter data. The programme will enhance the understanding of technical losses and help reduce such losses across the TSO’s electricity network, serving 3.9 million customers.  

Mazoon Electricity Company (MZEC) is an electric power distributor serving 1.5 million customers in the northeast of Oman, is using Siemens’ Scalance device as the backbone of its communication infrastructure between the individual stations and the control center in Muscat.

Researchers from Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) and B&B Agema have been looking at a novel design approach – Nekomimi film cooling – to further increase temperatures at the combustor exit and high-pressure turbine stage inlet. The aim is to boost efficiency without putting too much strain on vanes and blades, considering that modern turbine stage inlet temperatures exceed the melting points of turbine blade materials.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will explore enabling technologies for the future of clean energy, energy digitization, and existing energy infrastructure at the 2018 MIT Energy Conference, to be held at Boston on March 2nd & 3rd.

Falling costs for renewables and energy storage will squeeze out gas-fired generation in some markets as early as 2025. South Australia's peak loads are currently managed by open-cycle gas turbine (OCGT) plants; but by 2025, battery storage will be cheaper than OCGTs – even at gas price of A$7/mmbtu, a WoodMackenzie study finds.

The first GT36-S5 model gas turbine produced at Ansaldo Energia's Genoa production facility was unveiled on Friday. With the ongoing support of Shanghai Electric Group, Ansaldo Energia’s Chinese partner, the first GT36 maxi gas turbines will be installed in two power generation plants in the Shanghai area.

Competition amongst battery producers is heating up: they have to shorten their time to market, improve their flexibility, quality and efficiency. To help boost the efficiency of large-scale battery production, Siemens has launched portfolio of cloud-based software solutions that help optimize every step of battery production and thus improve the competitiveness of battery manufacturers.

Funding of about $44 million has been freed up by the US Department of Energy (DOE) for design and testing of advanced carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. Selected projects include engineering-scale testing of transformational solvent- or membrane-based CO2-capture, and the design of a commercial-scale, post-combustion CCS system at an existing coal power unit.

Future use of hybrid energy will lead to a consistent baseload, without the need for top-up via fossil fuels, anticipates Francesco Falco, chief commercial officer at GE Power Conversion. "When using Silicon Carbide (SiC), – a diamond-like substance – instead of traditional silicon chips in a solar inverter, its high power density feature can reduce power losses by up to 50%," he explained.

At the Munich Security Conference today, Siemens and eight partners from industry have signed the first joint charter for greater cybersecurity while seeking to advance digitalization. Co-signatories of the charter are Airbus, Allianz, Daimler Group, IBM, NXP, SGS and Telekom.

Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) is celebrating its first win in Brazil for the technical selection of the M501 JAC gas turbine for the Vale Azul-II project. The power plant, which will have a contracted output of 466MW in combined-cycle mode, was successful in the A-6 Brazilian Electricity Auction held on December 20.

Dispatchable power generation capacity is shifting from flexible gas gensets to wind and solar technologies paired with energy storage. Excellent solar resources in the U.S. state of Arizona make First Solar confident that its 65MW solar farm and a 50MW/135MWh battery storage facility will outcompete gas peaking plants in terms of supplying electricity into the evening peak.

Juazeiro, a city in northeastern Brazil, will host ABB install Latin America’s first digitally-enabled substation. The new 230-kilovolt (kV) substation and connection bay at the Juazeiro II substation will deliver power from a 156-MW solar photovoltaic poewr plant, under development nearby. Arctis, a UK-based investment firm, will own and operate the Juazeiro solar project together with its renewable energy arm in Latin America, Atlas Renewable Energy.

Challenged with the rising contribution of inherently intermittent wind and solar power supply, network operators are investing billions in stabilising their power grids. To anticipate supply/demand patterns and avoid overloaded grids, GreenCom Networks has developed an “Open-innovation Lab” with live data from end-customers. The system links electric cars, PV systems, heat pumps and other energy equipment in Germany and 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.