Technology & Innovation

Wherever connectivity goes, vulnerability follows. Erik Laykin, head of global data risk at Duff & Phelps, uses the example of autonomous vehicles to argue that as the power sector becomes more central to our lives, electricity businesses must switch to a cybersecurity-first mindset.

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.

The Swiss arm of MAN Diesel & Turbo and ABB Switzerland have started to jointly develop, produce and commercialize a three-way Electro-Thermal Energy Storage system (ETES). Based on so-called ‘charging cycle,’ the ETES uses surplus renewable-electricity to generate heat and cold for storage in insulated reservoirs. The stored heat and cold can then be converted back into electrical energy on demand.

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.

Deployment of large-scale battery storage is rapidly increasing across the United States, but capital costs of energy storage systems vary greatly, dependent on the technology uses. Energy-oriented batteries systems, used for peakload shaving, are designed for longer durations and consequently have higher average costs per kilowatt and lower costs per kilowatthour. This type is mostly used in the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) area.

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.

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.

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