Technology & Innovation

Ansaldo Energia and Leonardo – one of the top ten players in aerospace, defence and security – are setting up the "Start 4.0 Competence Centre for the Security and Optimisation of critical Infrastructures" in Liguria, Italy. Their mission is to identify adequate solutions through experiments and validate methodological approaches to map risk and protect infrastructure, notably power plants.

Eager to maintain market share, GE Power has just introduced the new MXL2 with an additive manufactured, or 3D printed performance upgrade for the GT13E2 turbine. The new solution is meant to help operators of gas power plants save up to $2 million in fuel annually.

Bilfinger, an industrial service provider, is driving forward internal digitalization by using Siemens’ Comos Engineering & Maintenance Platform across its many sites and subsidiaries. The deal gives Siemens access to feedback on how SMEs are utilizing using the platform – useful insights to selectively drive forward further development of the software.

Wherever connectivity goes, vulnerability follows, so as the power sector becomes more central to our lives, electricity businesses must switch to a cybersecurity-first mindset, says Erik Laykin, head of global data risk at Duff & Phelps. In his view, the trend towards autonomous vehicles is "just the start. Power is set to be the platform our world is built on.”

With two ‘digital twins’ – the virtual replication of the physical electric generating asset – First Gen of the Philippines has become the first utility in Southeast Asia to adopt this technology. The Lopez-led gas power plants, built by Siemens, are now being showcased as ‘proof-of-concept’ for the new digital business model to customers in the region.

Blockchain, a digital ledger that creates and stores records that are linked together in a chain, offers the energy industry an opportunity reduce operational risk and transactional cost in trading, supply chain management and retail. The incorruptible digital record might also be used to increase compliance.

The world’s first liquid air energy storage (LAES) plant has been launched by Highview Power at Bury, near Manchester, this week. Supported by £8 million in UK government funding, the 5MW/15MWh LAES plant is the first operational LAES demonstration plant at grid-scale, providing backup electricity supply that is being utilized by the demand response aggregator KiWi Power.

Synthetic Genomics and ExxonMobil have worked together to turn algae into a low-emission transportation fuel for a number of years. Ongoing works in lab work are envisaged to lead to the technical ability to produce 10,000 barrels of algae biofuel per day by 2025.

NET Power, developer of an emission-free gas power generation technology, has taken a leap forward with successful combustor first-fire at its 50MWth demonstration plant in Texas. Using the technology called Allam Cycle, the new plant is “radically different” from conventional combined-cycle plants. It uses high pressure CO2, rather than steam, as the working fluid to generate electricity from carbon-based fuels without producing air emissions.

Outages of power systems have severe financial implications: unplanned downtime can cost an LNG facility as much as $4 million per day. With potential costs so high, profitability is largely linked with unplanned downtime. According to GE Power estimates, unplanned shutdowns in the process industry globally cost 5% of total annual production — that’s as much as $30 billion a year.

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.

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News in Brief

Tokyo Gas snaps up US shale assets

July 31 – The Japanese utility Tokyo Gas has agreed to raise its stake in the U.S. firm Castleton Resources to 70 percent from 46 percent to increase its foothold in shale gas production in Texas and Louisiana.  Castleton Resources holds acreage in the Haynesville and Cotton Valley formations. The transaction is scheduled to be completed on August 14.

Electrical PE market to grow 1.7% through 2027

July 30 – The market for electrical protective equipment (PE) in North America, valued at $2,787 million in 2019, is forecast to rise at an annual rate of 1.7 percent to reach $3,163 million by 2027. Main growth drivers, according to ResearchandMarkets, are ongoing power transmission projects in the context with U.S. LNG export infrastructure expansions.

GE wins turbine order from Italian paper mill

July 29 – DS Smith Paper Italia has ordered a GE LM6000PF aero-derivative gas turbine for its paper mill in Lucca, Italy. The paper mill is currently powered by two aero-derivative turbines, and the additional unit will increase plant efficiency by 2%, while assuring steam supply for the industrial process.

Aceleron secures £2m green energy investment

July 28 – UK battery developer Aceleron today announced receipt of a £2 million equity investment from BGF and Mercia Asset Management. Aceleron is BGF’s second investment into a pure clean technology, signalling a shift in behaviour as more and more fund managers support a green recovery and the UK’s policy of net-zero carbon by 2050.

NRG buys Centrica’s North American arm for over $3.6bn

July 27 – U.S. utility NRG Energy has agreed with Centrica to acquire the latter’s North American subsidiary Direct Energy for $3.625 billion in an all-cash transaction. The transaction will diversify NRG’s earnings by adding more than three million retail customers and generate an estimated $740 million in adjusted EBITDA upon closing.

Siemens rolls out Comfy app

July 24 – Siemens is deploying its workplace experience solution Comfy across its global offices, including major utility customers. The aim is to equip approximately 600 company locations by October 2020.

BlackRock puts $18bn into sustainable investment

July 23 – Sustainability aspects are poised to bring about "fundamental change" to the way financial market actors operate, said Philipp Hildebrand, vice head of U.S. investment company BlackRock. About 18 billion dollars have been put into BlackRock's sustainable investment products since the beginning of 2020, he told the German business daily FAZ, arguing this would be "only the beginning" of a much larger shift in investment practices.

Vaca Muerta output slows

July 22 – Argentina has resorted to importing LNG for the Southern Hemisphere winter as domestic production at the vast Vaca Muerta shale formation fell in the first half of 2020. State-owned IEASA purchased 28 LNG cargoes at average prices of $2.87 million British thermal units (mmBtu).

GE to implement air quality control systems in India

July 21 – GE Power India Ltd (GEPIL) has won three contracts with a combined value of $112.57 million to supply air quality control systems. One semi-dry flue-gas desulfurization (FDG) unit will be installed for Hindalco Industries’ 1x150MW power plant at the Aditya aluminium smelter in Sambalpur. A wet FDGs system will be installed on behalf of NTPC for their Feroze Gandhi Unchahar thermal power plant (2x210MW plus 2x210 MW plus 1x210MW units) in Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh.

Wärtsilä CEO sees “tough” H2 ahead

July 20 – Wärtsilä CEO Jaakko Eskola has told analysts he sees a “tough second half of the year ahead,” as the Finish manufacturer seeks to mitigate Covid-related business disruptions. In the segment of up to 500 MW, Wärtsilä’s market share fell from 9% to 8%, while orders for gas- and liquid- power plants increased by 1% to 17.8 GW during the twelve-month period ending in March 2020.

GE launches update to digital plant software

July 17 – GE Digital has unveiled updates to its digital power plant software: Proficy Plant Applications, Proficy Operations Hub, Proficy Historian, and Proficy CSense. The software accelerates digitization for industries and integrates related onsite power generation units.

Germany EEG fund slips into the red

July 16 – Germany's green energy fund, funded through the renewable energy surcharge (EEG levy), has slipped into the red for the first time since 2013, according to TSO data. The account, funded by end-customers through a surcharge on their power bill, fell from about €2 billion in available funds to €-1.16 billion in the first six months of 2020.

China seen overtake Japan as worlds’ largest LNG buyer by 2025

July 15 – The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects China to overtake Japan as the world’s biggest LNG buyer with imports of 128 Bcm a year by 2025, equivalent to around 174 million tonnes. However, IEA analysts cautioned this scenario is “highly dependent on China’s future policy direction” and whether that includes an ongoing push for coal-to-gas switching for industry, residential heating and power generation.

IEA stages Clean Energy Transitions Summit

July 14 – Ministers from dozens of countries, accounting for over 80% of the world economy, have participated in the first Clean Energy Transitions Summit organised by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, said there “clearly is momentum” behind a sustainable recovery from the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. Participants agreed to reconvene in mid-2021.

Siemens Energy to exit coal

Jul 13 – Newly formed technology company Siemens Energy wants to phase-out any operations and technology to related to coal-fired power generation, CEO Joe Kaeser said, without giving a specific timeline. Siemens had been harshly criticised earlier this year for participating in the Adani coal mine project in Australia.

Statkraft, GE enhance GB grid stability

July 10 – Statkraft and GE Power Conversion are working together to stabilise Britain’s power grid. To that end, GE will manufacture and install two Rotating Stabiliser synchronous machines at Statkraft’s site in Keith, Moray. Statkraft was awarded four stability contracts (two at Keith and two at Lister Drive) by National Grid ESO (NGESO) earlier this year.

Siemens Energy spin-off approved

July 9 – A large majority of Siemens shareholders have voted to approve the spin-off of the company’s energy business. The spin-off was approved by 99.36 percent of capital stock represented at today’s extraordinary shareholders’ meeting.

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