Technology & Innovation

ABB Ability Ellipse solution will support Ameren Illinois’ multi-million dollar modernization of their power grid in Illinois. The asset performance management software has a “prescriptive approach”, which will allow Ameren to better predict and prevent the failure of mission-critical equipment that delivers electricity to 1.2 million customers.

With the advent of utility-scale energy storage and hybrid power systems, traditional power producers are turning to system integrators to balance multiple generation assets and optimize the energy produced. Wärtsilä’s GEMS software helped ALTEO Group optimise an engine power plant with energy storage in Hungary, and on the Azores the software used a mircogrid form of AI to control and balance wind, solar and diesel gensets.

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, has evolved significantly and today develops turbine components that, in most cases, perform better than their conventionally manufactured counterparts. In the energy field, Siemens is aspiring to qualify 200 components for manufacture via 3D printing by 2025.

Operators in the energy sector are struggling to cope with rising threats to the security of their generating assets. Digitalisation helps ensure a save and stable operating environment to allow for flexible dispatch of power units. Wärtsilä solutions build up an active resistance to cyber threats that guarantees electric utilities a steady return on their assets.

Substations in the digital age are increasingly known as “the heart of the power supply system,” connecting parts of the grid that operate at different voltage levels. Siemens’ vision is a largely decarbonized energy system in a “near-to-all electric world”. The technology is already there, but utilities and grid operators still need to fully embrace it.

Siemens has successfully concluded the first phase of its Subsea Power Grid shallow water test in Trondheim, Norway. Working together with Chevron, Equinor, ExxonMobil, and Eni Norge, Siemens is in the final stages of developing a barrier-breaking system to distribute medium-voltage power, using pressure compensated technology.

Siemens has committed to invest up to 600 million Euros at its industrial estate in Berlin Spandau, a future R&D hub. A new world of working and living will be built on an area of 70 hectares to strengthen selected key technologies and innovations. Research will focus on distributed energy, electric vehicles, digitalization, and 3D printing.

Hydrogen, as an energy carrier and feedstock, has gained momentum amid falling cost of wind and solar power. Once mass-produced at very low cost in places like Argentina, Australia, Chile, the Middle East or South Africa, green hydrogen could become a game-changer, the same way LNG linked previously disconnected regional gas markets.

Predix ServiceMax, just launched by GE Digital, is an Asset Service Management (ASM) system designed to increase equipment uptime and improve maintenance outcomes for industry and power plant operators. Combined with performance management, the new offering helps customers transform their maintenance process from a break-fix model to a predictive service model.

A lifecycle upgrade enhances the equipment of a power plant to meet its original running parameters. With a combined cycle upgrade, more power can be produced with the same amount of fuel by applying waste heat recovery steam generators connected to common steam turbine generator sets. According to Wärtsilä Services Manager Markus Åbrant, this particular type of upgrade can trigger as much as 10% higher energy output.

Development of practical fusion power plants has been slow-moving, but now researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have found an innovative solution on how to get rid of excess heat that would cause structural damage to the plant. The new MIT-originated design features secondary magnets and an enlarged exhaust pipe.

Having just launched H2 solution, its new sequential hydrogen combustion system, Ansaldo Energia is now carrying out further tests with the aim of allowing gas turbines to run entire on renewable gas. “The latest H2 solution is already capable to work in an impressive load range, and with still unmatched hydrogen volume percentages,” the Italian manufacturer stated.

Japan’s Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions (ESS) has agreed with the National Electrification Administration (NEA) of the Philippines to jointly promote H2One – autonomous, hydrogen-based energy systems and the use of hydrogen as a fuel for power generation. In a study, both partners will evaluate the optimum system specifications in the Philippines, where half of the current energy supply is comes from coal-and oil-fired power stations.

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), together with research and industry partners, has started construction of a supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) power plant in San Antonio, Texas. The $119 million pilot project is also supported by GE Global Research, the Gas Technology Institute (GTI) and the US Department of Energy/National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE/NETL). Construction is slated to be completed in 2020.

Looking to converge digital engineering models, Siemens and Bentley Systems have entered a strategic alliance on project delivery and asset performance for the sectors Energy Management, Power Generation, Building Technology and Mobility. Siemens had acquired about € 70 million of secondary shares in Bentley, and the two companies now said they will invest at least € 50 million in developing joint digital solutions for infrastructure and industry.

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News in Brief

Tohoku Electric tenders for LNG cargo

Aug 19 – Tohoku Electric Power, the fourth-largest electric utility in Japan in terms of revenue behind Tepco, Kepco and Chubu, is understood to be seeking an LNG cargo for delivery in September. A tender process is ongoing.

Cost for decarbonizing industry tops $21tr

Aug 16 – Total costs to fully decarbonize the four most polluting industries – cement, steel, ammonia and ethylene – are estimated to amount to $21 trillion between today and 2050. McKinsey said this could be lowered to about $11 trillion if zero-carbon electricity prices come down further compared to fossil fuel prices. In this event, industry could switch to using electricity for heating processes.

Co-firing Braskem plant with hydrogen

Aug 15 – Siemens is making fossil energy greener at the Braskem onsite power plant in Brazil. In this modernization project two SGT-600 gas turbines are co-fired up to 60% with hydrogen, enhancing efficiency for the production process of the adjacent the petrochemical complex.

Canada's CO2 tax to hit CCGTs

Aug 5 – Change in Canada’s carbon emissions tax regulation for new power plants has changed to also affect cleaner-burning, gas combined-cycle power stations starting from 2021. The move could significantly lower the profitability of gas generation and could prompt SaskPower reconsider its planned Moose Jaw gas power station.

GE CFO steps down

Aug 2 – Jamie S. Miller, General Electric’s chief financial officer, has decided to quit after two years in the job and 11 years with the company. Having overseen GE’s fiscal activities during a period of intense restructuring, Miller will remain in office while the GE board is looking for a successor.

Siemens HR boss quits

Aug 1 – Janina Kugel, Siemens chief HR officer, is leaving the company amid an apparently scattered working relationship and stark personal differences with CEO Joe Kaeser. Her contract will expire by mutual agreement on January 31, 2020.

ABB standardizes eBus chargers

July 31 – Zurich-based ABB, a member of the ASSURED consortium, is working on standardizing the specifications for automatic charging of heavy vehicles. The aim is to drive down the total cost of ownership for electric fleet operators, helping increase adoption of eBuses and eTrucks. Conformance and interoperability tests will be carried out in Q4-2019.

U.S. Senate helps fund EV charging stations

July 30 – The need for expanded electric vehicle charging infrastructure is greater than expected given that there had been over 1.75 million electric vehicles (EV) in North America at the end of 2018, a nearly 60% increase from the previous year. To help fund additional charging stations, among other things, the U.S. Senate approved the $287 billion America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA).

PNOC, Lloyds to develop merchant LNG-to-Power projects

July 29 – Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Lloyds Energy to develop a 1,200 MW LNG-fuelled power plant in partnership with Mitsubishi. Dubai-based Lloyds Energy is looking at ways to develop integrated LNG import facilities and gas power plants on a merchant basis in Bataan and Batangas provinces.

Macquarie finances CCGT in Mexico

July 26 – 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.

Naturgy cashes in on gas network

July 25 – Spanish gas utility Naturgy has posted a 7% rise in core earnings for the first half of the year due to strong gains from its gas network business that helped offset falling revenues from power generation and slimmer LNG margins.

French court rejects appeal against Total CCGT

July 24 – Judges at an appeal court in Nantes have thrown out an appeal by environmentalist against Total’s planned Landivisiau combined-cycle gas power plant in Brittany. The 440 MW project, initiated by Direct Energy which was since acquired by Total, is over two years behind schedule. The French grid operator RTE has singled out the Landivisiau CCGT as “critical” in guaranteeing supply security in winter 2020/21 due to the planned shutdown of four coal power plants.

U.S. gas production falls in wake of ‘Barry’

July 23 – Shut-ins related to Hurricane Barry have scaled back U.S. gas production by 1.6 billion cubic feet per day, compared to last week, while power sector gas demand rose by just over 2.0 bcf/d. Consequently, there is significantly less gas available for storage so the injection rate has halved, according to Energy Aspects figures.

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.