Technology & Innovation

Bacteria and microbes living in oxygen-deprived environments – deep within mines, at the bottom of lakes or in the human gut – have evolved way of breathing that involves excreting and pumping out electrons. These microbes can actually produce electricity and MIT researchers are striving to harness these microbial power plants to run fuel cells.

Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions has set out an internal business re-design project to accelerate a digital transformation. Eager to simplify its set-up, Toshiba ESS will consolidate its nuclear, thermal, hydro and services units into a new Power System Division, while transformation, distribution and energy aggregation will be folded into a Grid Aggregation Division as of April 1.

Coal is likely to be the largest application of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), expects Laszlo Varro, chief economist at the International Energy Agency (IEA). Around 85% of the reduction in coal plant emissions came from efficiency and renewables, leading to fewer coal plants running less hours and only a minority from capturing the emissions from continuous operation.

General Electric is preparing the launch of a new company, focussed on Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) software. The spin-off will have a new brand identity and its own equity structure, starting with $1.2 billion in annual software revenue and an existing global industrial customer base.

Additive manufacturing, or 3D metal printing, is planned to “go systematic” across Wärtsilä Group a based on plans to create a dedicated research centre in Vaasa, on the west coast of Finland. Researchers from ABB, Wärtsilä and two universities will collaborate, with construction for the R&D centre planned to start in 2019 or 2020.

Material Solutions – a Siemens business – has been opened in Worcester, UK, following a £27 million investment. On a 4,700 square metre site, experimental laboratory processes in Selective Laser Melting (SLM), or 3D printing, are turned into industrial practice in the production of gas turbine components, saving time and money.

Indonesia and the Philippines, archipelagos within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), are in focus of MAN’s new integrated LNG-to-Power solutions. “We have new projects under development mainly in Asia and western- and northern Africa. But this is a business we are still building,” said Carsten Dommermuth, business development manager at MAN Energy Solutions. In Gibraltar, meanwhile, an 80 MW project is already under commissioning.

Carbon capture and hydrogen are interdependent; hence the resurgence of strategic interest in hydrogen is strongly connected with carbon capture in multiple ways. “The most basic is the source of hydrogen: today it is fossil fuels with over 10 tons of CO2 emitted for a ton of H2,” said IEA chief economist Laszlo Varro.

Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) is one of a few options that can significantly reduce emissions from coal and gas power generation as well as from industrial processes such as steel, cement and chemicals manufacturing. “Without CCUS as part of the solution,” said IEA head Dr. Fatih Birol, “reaching our international climate goals is practically impossible.”

Utilities around the global are understood to have halted operations of at least 18 of GE’s HA turbines at power plants following blade oxidation corrosion issues. The technical issues are reportedly very similar to a recent GE turbine blade failure at Exelon’s Colorado Bend power plant near Houston.

Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries has spent $175 million to develop a floating gas-fired power plant, fuelled by LNG, and aimed at the Southeast Asian market. The power ships will be offered to utility customers on remote islands and in isolated locations with underdeveloped gas pipeline infrastructure.

Digital twinning, the creation a digital replica of physical assets, is “already out of date, out of synch – simply because the twin is not alive,” said Robert Yeager, president of Power & Water Solutions at Emerson. Instead, he advocated “real-time synchronization” of the power plant and digital asset representation.

Remote management of medium-speed Bergen engines will be made possible via Rolls-Royce’s new end-to-end platform for secure collection, transfer, storage, and analysis of engine data. The aim is to reduce downtime and lower operational costs. Testing of the new remote monitoring tool has been underway for more than a year.

MTU Onsite Energy, part of Rolls-Royce Power Systems, and LEW Verteilnetz have demonstrated that distributed generation units can be used to supply emergency backup power in the event of an outage. Project partners used MTU cogeneration units and renewables and tested the new concept in extensive field trials in an isolated grid in Germany.

SeaFloat, a barge-mounted power plant based on SGT-800 gas turbine, will be provided by Siemens and the maritime arm of ST Engineering for Bermuda-based Seaboard Corp. The 145 MW power barge, dubbed Estrella del Mar III, will supply the Dominican Republic with electricity at a lower cost than a land-based plant staring from spring 2021.

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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.