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.

By 2024, China’s market for flow vanadium energy storage is likely to exceed $3 billion. The new technology is based on domestic resource and offers virtually unlimited storage capacity, long duration, and rapid response time. A 200MW/800MWh vanadium flow battery is under development in Dalian, with the batteries made in a nearby factory of Rongke Power.

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 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.

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