Technology & Innovation

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.

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.

New Swiss law mandates the installation of smart electricity meters which increases the data volume of the energy infrastructure firm BKW Group more than 40,000-fold. Hence BWK approached Siemens to install a cloud-based data management system for power consumption data. The launch of the EnergyIP system will occur in early 2019.

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News in Brief

Gazprom seeks to partner with Fortum

June 27 – The heads of Gazprom and Forum, Alexey Miller and Pekka Lundmark, have met in St. Petersburg to discuss a potential cooperation in the field of power generation. The Finish energy company Fortum owns 29.5% of the Russian power plant TGC-1 as well as a 49.99% share in the German utility Uniper. Through the talks, Gazprom could gain Fortum’s support to expand its firm long-term deliveries of Russian gas to Finland and Germany.

Quarrels over contract award

June 26 – Guam Power Authority’s decision to award a contract to finance, build and operate a new 180 MW power station on the island to Korea Electric Power has sparked protest by rival bidders. Four companies had submitted proposals – Korea Electric, Osaka Gas, Powerflex and Hanwha Energy Corp. Declining to comment on the quarrels over the contract awarding process, GPA said the deal with Korea Electric is expected to close by September 9, pending a related impact study.

PTT steps up power sector investment

June 25 – Thailand's state-run PTT Pcl has decided to boost investments in the retail and industrial power sectors to help insulate the energy company against the impact of a global economic slowdown on its oil refining and chemical businesses. Referring to the Sino-U.S. trade war as a global challenge, PTT chief executive Chansin Treenuchagron said the company is looking “how we can survive in the short term.”

APR helps power Libya’s recovery

June 24 – Libya’s state-owned GECOL has asked APR Energy to bring in temporary generators to provide a rapid 450 MW boost. Under the latest contracts, APR provided mobile gas turbines at four key sites in Libya (250 MW) as well as 200 MW of diesel generators at two sites.

GE supplies SCADA to New Zealand

June 21 – GE’s Renewable Energy Grid Solution’s business has won an order from two New Zealand utilities to upgrade their traditional Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems with GE’s Advanced Distribution Management Solutions (ADMS). The orders were placed by Top Energy Ltd with some 31,000 customers and Northpower serving over 60,000 customers, though the contract values were not disclosed.

Top 5 OEMs to rule two thirds of global wind market

June 20 – After a decade of fragmentation, the top 5 turbine OEMs are consolidating again and Wood Mackenzie anticipates key players will surpass a combined market share of 68% by 2020, up from 47% five years ago. Vestas, SGRE and GE remain the top 3 wind turbine producers wwhile the Chinese leaders, Goldwind and Envision, are becoming increasingly popular due to their product reliability and track record.

Keane to merge with C&J Energy

June 19 – Oil- and gasfield service providers C&J Energy Services and Keane Group have agreed a merger-of-equals in a $746 deal that will give the two companies the necessary uplift in an industry burdened by budget cuts of hydrocarbon producers. The 50:50 merger will create a company will create a company with a combined enterprise value of $1.8 billion, including $255 million in debt. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year.

Evol LNG helps power Australian gold mine

June 18 – Kirkalocka Gold Mine in Western Australia will use Evol LNG to fuel Zenith Energy’s 14.5 MW power station with regasified natural gas starting from September 2019. The mine is run by Adaman Resources and had been relying on diesel to cover its energy needs. Based on the current diesel price, Adaman Resources expects to reduce fuel costs by more than A$13 million (US$9 million) during the first six years of operation of the new onsite LNG-to-Power plant.

Shell Energy ordered to refund overcharged UK customers

June 17 – UK energy regulator Ofgem has ordered Shell Energy Retail to refund around 12000 customers who were overcharged after the Government’s cap on gas and electricity prices came into force in January. Shell Energy Retail s agreed to refund these customers by paying £29,000 in compensation (£5 per fuel), and also pay an additional £200,000 into Ofgem’s voluntary redress fund.

BASF enters battery market

June 14 – German chemical company BASF is using NGK Insulators’ sodium sulfur batteries as its entry point into the energy market. The Japanese manufacturer NGK is currently the only maker of the large-scale sodium sulfur (NAS) batteries, capable to store several hours of energy. A joint project in northern Germany uses NAS batteries that store energy for five hours, while a recently completed project in Abu Dhabi using 108MW / 648MWh of the systems with a full six hours storage duration.

CNPC boosts domestic gas production

June 13 – China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the largest Chinese oil and gas company, has announced plans for domestic natural gas output to reach 55% of overall domestic supply by 2025. Last year, CNPC managed to boost production by 5.9% to reach 138.02 billion cubic metres, while also increasing imports of pipeline gas and LNG.

Gazprom taps new gas deposits for Nord Stream 2

June 12 – Gazprom is fast-tracking hydrocarbon production in northwest Russia to boost reserves for export through the Nord Stream 2 pipeline (55 Bcm/y), currently being built through the Baltic Sea. At a meeting with Nord Stream shareholders, Gazprom noted that its Yuzhno-Russkoye field has yielded about 276 Bcm of natural gas, including 0.9 Bcm of hard-to-recover Turonian gas, since the start of operations. Turonian gas reserves, consisting of about 99% methane with no heavy residues, lie at a depth of 800–850 meters in reservoirs with low permeability. Commercial production at the Turonian deposit is scheduled to start in late 2019.

PG&E turns off electricity to avoid wild fires

June 11 – Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has turned off electricity for some Californian communities at risk of a wildfire during the lastest heat wave. The authorized blackout started on Saturday in Napa, Solano and Yolo counties, with electricity being gradually restored over the course of Monday. Approximately 16,000 customers have been affected.

Gazprom to build power plants in Serbia

June 10 – Gazprom Energoholding has signed an Agreement of Intent (AoI) to build an upgrade several gas-fired power plants in Serbia. Together with Novi Sad, Gazprom Energoholding is already building a CCGT with some 200 MW capacity near a refinery in the Serbian town of Pancevo.

U.S. fund splashes out $4bn to buy El Paso Electric

June 7 – Infrastructure Investment Fund (IIF), a private investment vehicle within J.P. Morgan Inc., has agreed to acquire the U.S. utility El Paso Electric Co for $68.25 per share in a cash transaction. The enterprise value on the transaction is estimated at $4.3 billion. El Paso Electric customers will receive a total $21 million in bill credits over three years.

Caterpillar gensets back up Finnish data center

June 6 – The Swedish telecom giant Telia has ordered 12 Caterpillar gensets to provide standby emergency power to back up operations at its new data center in Helsinki. The Cat dealer Witraktor figured a system which includes eight Cat 3516B and four 3516E generator sets. The Telia Helsinki Data Center is the largest such facility in Finland, and its primary electric power supply comes from a combination of wind, hydroelectric and biomass.

Capstone wins orders in Iraq

June 5 – Micro-turbine producer Capstone has secured an order for two C600 Signature Series microturbines to provide 1.2 MW of energy to power a triethylene glycol (TEG) dehydration facility near Basra, in southern Iraq. The contract also includes Capstone’s new self-cleaning pulse filtration system, allowing the turbines to better withstand hot and sandy conditions with minimal maintenance.