The Energy Blog
Kristina Dotzauer 07/03/2017
For nearly two years now Siemens Wind Power has been utilizing three Service Operations Vessels (SOVs) to conduct and support service and maintenance operations at various offshore wind power plants in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. We were the first OEM to offer these so called ‘floating warehouses’ for far-from-shore wind farms. Now, after months of familiarizing this new concept within daily operations ideas and plans are being considered to further utilize these modern vessels through vessels sharing. Traditionally in the maritime industry vessel sharing is an agreement between various partners within a shipping consortium to operate a liner service along a specified route using a specified number of vessels. Even if wind service suppliers are not shipping lines they run a growing fleet of service vessels which could adapt the same concept. An internal project has therefore been initiated to determine how the fleet of SOVs can be shared with multiple offshore wind power plants to increase the vessel’s utilization.
Since the beginning of SOV operations two years ago the industry has seen that SOV performance has been higher than expected. So this means that the SOVs assigned to specific sites are not being fully utilized to their full potential. This finding opens new options to exhaust the benefit of these customized vessels to additional wind farms. Currently we are running a project to develop a roadmap to increase the utilization rate of SOVs. The idea is to offer a SOV charter to a minimal of 20 percent of the operation time. In addition the vessel sharing offers options to decrease the overall logistical costs per plant. Our project focusses on the development of a concept to share chartered SOVs between wind farms located off the coast of Sylt, Northern Germany, where a couple of projects are in operation using our technology. In layman's terms this project thus aims to increase SOV utilization to full potential, reduce costs associated with offshore logistics and increase SOV flexibility to promote a ‘multi-farm logistical set-up’.
Since SOVs in the past have been designed for designated offshore wind power plants we see smaller design changes to adopt the vessels to the demands of a multiple wind farm logistical set-up. Specific designs respect monopile heights, tidal heights and equipment with tools and spare parts for a specific series of wind turbines. The unique design and structure of these vessels needs to be modified to a more open approach. The possibility of relocating current vessels to others sites are quite limited. Future vessels will include variable elevators and gangways heights so the vessel can operate in waters with different tidal heights and projects equipped with monopiles or jackets of different heights.
However increased SOV utilization includes also risks: It may put pressure on resource allocation of service technicians and material since the vessels will be put to more use. Furthermore if current SOV utilization increases, room for further improvements may be difficult to achieve as the vessels are already at full capability. However it is the goal of the work streams within our development project to hinder the impact of these risks as much as possible.
Nevertheless the opportunities for SOV sharing are definitely there and very strong. Initiating a sharing model will allow us to increase operational flexibility of the SOVs as we will be able to reposition them across other projects. Additionally as a service provider, we were the first to deploy such as concept for offshore service and introducing this sharing model would help us further develop our experience in effectively utilizing these purpose built vessels for offshore wind service and maintenance. Something that can only be achieved through experience and understanding what works and what doesn’t.
By René Cornelis Wigmans, Head of Maritime and Aviation Solutions at Siemens Wind Power
Kristina Dotzauer 06/03/2017
The Egypt Megaproject has reached a major milestone on time, even achieving a surplus of 10 percent (or 400 megawatts) over the promised generation capacity to be available within 18 months of the signing of the contract: The first twelve SGT5-8000H gas turbines located at the combined cycle power plants in Beni Suef, Burullus and New Capital were fired up in November 2016 and are now generating a total of 4.8 gigawatts of electricity for Egypt. The generated amount would be sufficient to provide approximately 11 million Egyptians with stable electricity.
“These three power plants are smartly positioned to feed the neediest communities with clean and reliable energy,” points out Ahmed El Saadany, Learning Manager at Siemens Egypt. “Beni Suef to feed Upper Egypt to the south, Burullus to cover the north coast and Alexandria, and New Capital to fuel the future center of business and excellence alongside Cairo.” We caught up with Ahmed ahead of the ceremony celebrating this momentous achievement to talk about the human aspect of realizing such an endeavor.
“There were undeniable challenges in the area of human resources,” he explains. “Starting from the mobilization of thousands of local as well as global skilled workers throughout the ramp-up phase in an extremely tight timeframe and with tough execution conditions.” In addition to the 20,000 jobs created in civil, mechanical and electrical works, 600 further vacancies arose for the operation and maintenance of the three power plants. “These have been filled by young Egyptian engineers from the surrounding communities who will be sustainably employed.”
Together with his colleagues in Germany, and cooperating with the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company, Siemens Egypt’s learning manager succeeded in creating a tailored training program for 600 trainees, based on a combination of technical and non-technical modules, including language, communication, team psychology and leadership. “Our intention was to empower a new generation of local experts who can professionally run such technology in the future,” he says.
“Now already 300 of them are trained up to global standards in the operation and maintenance of power plants and are ready to take over the operations of the first open-cycle phase for each of the three power plants after a successful synchronization and first firing,” Ahmed relates proudly. They are for instance the turbine operators who were involved in preparing the first fire in November 2016 and thus helped to set up a new worldwide benchmark for the execution of fast-track power projects.
Finding the right personnel for the project, however, was not the only challenge in the last 18 months. To deliver a project on such a mega scale on time, the consortium of Siemens and its Egyptian partners Orascom Construction and El Sewedy Electric often had to think in completely new dimensions. “At the Beni Suef construction site, we managed to carry out the excavation and the removal of around 1,750,000 cubic meters of rock, which is the equivalent to the volume of Menkaure, the smallest Giza pyramid,” says Ahmed El Saadany. “And at the New Capital plant, we pioneered an ingenious, customized solution with air-cooled condenser technology to solve the lack of water resources in the desert.” Meanwhile in Burullus, the terrain and the weather proved harsher than expected – resulting in a further ramp-up of manpower to meet the deadline.
So what will be the outcome of this unprecedented effort? “Egyptians have long looked forward to a time of no more power cuts and blackouts,” says Ahmed El Saadany. “This will create a more attractive environment for future investments with abundant energy supply at reasonable cost, which will boost the country’s overall economic growth and prosperity.”
In terms of tangible results, the power plant construction projects have already impacted on the communities where they are located. “The three gigantic power plants brought life to their respective regions,” the learning manager comments. “We can expect to further witness unprecedented growth and development, leading to thousands of jobs that are already being created and will be created in the future on a sustainable basis.”
“Those communities are experiencing a real transformation on the level of infrastructure and human capital to lead Egypt’s future in energy and sustainable socioeconomic development,” says Ahmed Elsaadany. “We at Siemens believe we can deliver the latest technologies and innovations that a country can really rely on. Our solutions are breaking world records when it comes to efficiency and reliability – and are improving people’s lives.”
By Manu Abdo, journalist in Cairo.
Kristina Dotzauer 24/01/2017
On a warm Danish summer back in 1991, 11 small, newly installed wind turbines began their long life in producing renewable energy for Danish homes. This milestone marked the first offshore wind farm to supply energy to the Danish national grid generated from an offshore wind farm. This new wind farm began an exciting journey in contributing to the idea and rapid technological development of offshore renewable energy. But when these first offshore wind turbines were installed, one thing was clear from the very beginning: reliability and safety are paramount throughout the whole lifecycle of the project.
When Vindeby Offshore Wind Farm was first commissioned, constructing offshore wind farms was a very new vision for an evolving industry. Today we see much larger offshore wind farms, representing a steady growth and weighty advancements in technology for offshore wind energy - and for many reasons.
Growing demand for sustainable energy
Wind energy overall is set to become the backbone of the world’s future power system, with predictions by the International Energy Agency (IEA) stating that at least a quarter of Europe’s power demand will be produced through wind by 2030.
The offshore wind energy sector alone is significantly contributing to that growth and estimates say that renewable energy through offshore wind is on track to account for 20 percent of total energy consumption by 2020 in the European Union. According to Wind Europe, as of summer 2016, there are 3,344 offshore wind turbines spread across 82 wind farms in the seas of Europe with a combined capacity of 11,538 MW.
And this upward trend looks to continue with newer, more powerful technology.
Benefits of offshore wind
Offshore wind is a relatively new technology, with plenty of opportunities for development to help make offshore wind become more efficient and cost competitive. But technology advancements are already very visible with much larger, more powerful wind turbines dominating the horizons out at sea, enabling higher energy output per turbine. Furthermore the wind resource offshore is generally much greater compared to onshore thanks to stronger winds at sea, thus generating more energy from fewer wind turbines.
Challenges facing offshore installation
But despite the significant benefits of offshore wind, installing wind farms far-from-shore is a lot more risky and challenging compared to onshore and requires a much more complicated installation, and maintenance approach. With the ever increasing size of wind farms and wind turbines, the installation process of an offshore wind farm requires a sophisticated logistical setup – from construction at the factory, to transportation from the harbor to the wind farm, to installation.
In general logistical challenges are a greater task offshore, where power plants can sometimes be a 100 kilometers from shore and sometimes difficult to access due to bad weather. To add to this logistical challenge, wind turbine parts including rotor blades, nacelle, hub and tower keep increasing in size to help accommodate improved durability and greater demand for output.
One of the challenges in designing offshore wind turbines is the high cost and logistical difficulties involved in transporting and installing rotor blades. Over the last 30 years, blades have grown 15 times in size enabling them to produce more energy than ever. The first commercial wind turbine had a capacity of 30 kW with rotor blades measuring 5 m. In comparison rotor blades today are somewhat larger. During 2014, Siemens Wind Power introduced the new 6MW wind turbine platform, specially designed for offshore. This new wind turbine is unique in many ways, including the three B75 blades, measuring 75 meters in length with and a combined diameter of 154 m.
Installing a B75 blade 100 kilometers from shore
As one can imagine positioning a rotor blade measuring 75 meters to a hub 60-90 meters tall, in sometimes very hostile conditions, is not a task for the faint hearted. Due to the sheer size of these rotor blades, Siemens uses the “singular mounting process”, by means of a specially designed lifting yoke installed on the installation jack-up vessel located on the site. Unlike more traditional installation methods where the rotor blades and the hub are jointed together onshore, much larger blades are installed using a specially designed lifting yoke installed on the installation jack-up vessel located on site. This lifting yoke allows for rotor blades to be aligned and attached to the hub and nacelle individually.
A flexible giant
A key function of the lifting yoke is the automatic sling connection. This ensures that no technician is working at heights during the installation, and the entire process can be remotely controlled from the safety of the deck of the installation vessel by a highly-trained “yoke operator”.
“This specially designed lifting yoke allows the blade to be remotely adjusted in height, can be tilted, pitched, and yawed by several degrees to help get the perfect positioning when attaching the blade to the hub. This yaw feature will allow us to keep full tension in the taglines connected to the crane boom while we simultaneously instruct the crane operator to yaw the crane for positioning the blade to the hub. We can easily adjust the alignment between the hub and blade without needing to adjust tagline tension. This allows us to install blades more safely and efficiently,” states Allan Truedsson Jepsen, Head of Offshore Site Training, Siemens Wind Power.
But with all types of very large, complicated machinery, training individuals to perfect their task is essential. And offshore installation technicians are no different. To date, Siemens Wind Power has six so called ‘super user operators’ and ten operators on hand to operate a lifting yoke. But to make sure that they can operate safely and effectively in the field, all operators undertake thorough training before they become a qualified yoke operators or super users. And this sometimes takes time.
So to help meet the ever increasing demands of the offshore wind market, Siemens Wind Power Training is introducing a yoke simulator to help prepare future operators and super users before offshore training and operations begin.
Why is the simulator important in the overall context?
Training simulators have been used for many years in many different industries to help prepare individuals to perfect their task. Airline pilots are frequently put through hours of simulation flights to help prepare and perfect them in their very demanding task of transporting passengers from A to B safety. For example pilots are often put through scenarios such as a full stall recovery or an engine failure mid-flight to see how well they react.
The new yoke simulator will also provide the same benefits in preparing our installation technicians for any eventuality. Safety is paramount at Siemens and through augmented virtual training our future technicians will be able to prepare themselves for any potential faults or difficulties in a controlled but very realistic environment.
With this simulator we will also be able to meet the increase demand of efficient and competent technicians, who are ready to meet the increasing demands in future offshore wind farms, and help our existing super-users get the training they need to cope with this ever increasing demand.
You can find out more about how this simulator works in this video.
Kristina Dotzauer 18/01/2017
The participants at the 2016 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Marrakesh, Morocco announced some ambitious goals: The nations most endangered by climate change seek to cover 100 percent of their energy demand from renewable energy sources, and thereby reduce their carbon emissions. In addition, a program is to kick off in 2020 providing USD 100 billion annually to support measures by developing countries to combat climate change. Yet, will all that be enough to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius? Unfortunately not – to meet that target, national governments will have to set even more stringent greenhouse gas reduction goals. What's missing is a complete about-face in favor of carbon-neutral energy policy. Decarbonization will require us not only to expand the use of renewable energy and create adequate energy storage solutions, but also to push the phase-out of coal power and focus more closely on the building, transport and industrial sectors. By pursuing ambitious climate protection goals and environmentally friendly technologies, the world's industrial nations in particular can lead by good example.
While transforming energy systems on a global scale demands common efforts, differing approaches are also needed: Developing countries need, for example, low-cost environmental technologies to offer their citizens opportunities for social and economic development. In contrast, energy-hungry emerging countries such as China or Egypt must focus on modernizing and expanding their infrastructure to meet the demands of growing populations, while at the same time not losing sight of the need for low-carbon energy production. The task for industrialized nations, in turn, is to replace their existing systems with modern, environmentally friendly technologies, and to drive digitalization with an eye to holistically optimizing the complete energy system.
As global population expands and growing numbers of people move to cities, experts forecast that energy consumption will continue to rise annually by 2.5 percent right through to the year 2035. Yet, there remain countless regions around the world where electricity supply is either unreliable or, for lack of electrification, simply non-existent. The energy sector in these regions will see massive investment in the coming future – a circumstance that offers opportunities for implementing environmentally friendly technologies. Projections foresee EUR 32 billion of investment worldwide over the next 20 years to expand electrical power supply systems, which significantly increases the chances for expanding the share of renewable energy in the overall energy mix.
While we know that one quarter of all greenhouse gases are generated by electricity production processes, we need to wake up to the fact that one half of all CO2 emissions are attributable to buildings, transport and industry, for example to produce and process fuels (in refineries). These sectors offer countless opportunities for decarbonization, one of which is by increasing the efficiency of total energy use along the entire value chain, i.e. from the energy source right through to consumption. One prime example of such economizing is the combined-cycle cogeneration "Fortuna" unit at Lausward Power Station in Düsseldorf, Germany, which achieves an overall energy conversion efficiency rating that tops 85 percent. It's also vital that the capacities of energy storage technologies be increased so that converted energy can be stored and then used when demand arises. Another expedient measure is to electrify as many applications as possible so that excess energy from one system can be "forwarded" to the consumers of other systems.
It is indeed possible to achieve a carbon-neutral system that ensures power supply without adversely affecting competitiveness. Industry plays a major role in these efforts, as almost all technologies needed to transition to a low-carbon-emissions economy are already available. However, decarbonization within the power generation industry itself will not be the only decisive factor: efforts to electrify and digitalize the industrial, building and transport sectors will be equally important. The goal is for these industries to implement energy-efficient and renewable technologies in combination with innovative energy storage solutions.
Reforming emissions trading
How can decarbonization be accelerated? As efficient as state-of-the-art technologies may be, they won't win over the market without the right incentives and broad acceptance across society as a whole. The European system of emissions trading in CO2 certificates, for example, is not functioning today as it should, and needs reform. Investing in environmentally friendly technologies simply isn't worthwhile with the price per ton of CO2 at 7 euros, which translates into far less than what is needed to operate a power plant. A positive impact will first be felt at 25 euros per ton or higher, and investing in truly state-of-the-art facilities will only prove profitable at prices around 35 euros per ton. How would it be if the 193 Member States of the United Nations were to agree to a worldwide system of emissions trading that guaranties uniform pricing?
Further supportive measures for transforming the energy sector can be introduced by redesigning the market, leading to a more cost-efficient future development of the system. These can include auctions for renewable energy capacities as practiced in Brazil and South Africa, and now in Germany as of 2017. There are other marketplaces where auctions can be held, such as the European Energy Exchange, and a market for flexible capacities (such as for simple-cycle gas-fired power plants) would also be a useful innovation. Besides financing, there's need for a flanking legal framework geared to provide stakeholders with security of investment over the long term.
Carbon-neutral by 2030
“Successful decarbonization will primarily depend on securing a broad political and societal consensus in favor of greater sustainability. Truly sustainable energy transitions, however, can succeed only when a national economy can in fact afford the necessary changes or when less industrialized countries are supported in their efforts. We all must play a decisive role in working toward this goal!”, says Lisa Davis, Member of the Siemens Management Board
Seeking to lead the way by example, we at Siemens have undertaken to become a carbon-neutral company by 2030. Our program, which we launched in September 2015, is structured into three areas of activity: Firstly, we are implementing distributed energy systems at our production plants and office buildings to minimize energy costs. Secondly, we're successively converting our motor vehicle fleet by procuring vehicles with low CO2 emissions and integrating electromobility concepts. And thirdly, we will be making greater use of natural gas and wind power as alternative energy sources.
After just one year's efforts, we're delighted to be able to announce some very positive results: Our company succeeded in reducing its carbon footprint by over 20 percent.
While decarbonization of course poses major challenges, we're continuing to pursue this goal and hope that other stakeholders in industry, the political arena and society as a whole will follow. Whether we together succeed in reaching our goal is up to each and every one of us.
More Information about how we understand sustainable Energy at Siemens: http://www.siemens.com/global/en/home/company/topic-areas/sustainable-energy.html
Kristina Dotzauer 18/01/2017
A study by the World Energy Council concludes that, thanks to technological progress, higher energy efficiency and stricter political terms of reference, global per capita primary energy consumption will have peaked by 2030. That is the good news. So, can we now sit back and relax? Not really. Because what happens after that – let's say between 2030 and 2060? Not only has the World Energy Council been thinking about the energy system of the future, our experts have been, too.
According to the World Energy Council, one trend is already clear: demand for electricity is going to double, so it makes sense to step up investment in an intelligent infrastructure. The "phenomenal" growth of the renewable energy forms, says the forecast, is set to continue. Whereas solar and wind power accounted for 4% of power generation in 2014, their share will perhaps multiply tenfold by 40 years later.
That the renewables are experiencing such rapid growth is due to the steady decline in investment costs. In recent years, these have dropped by up to 75 percent. But still, fossil fuels will continue to occupy first place (with a 50% share) in the energy mix. Foremost among these are coal, oil and gas, and they will remain the mainstay of the power supply for some time to come, though coal will slowly decline in importance as countries such as China and India strive to modernize their energy production and supply systems.
“One thing is certain: In the future, energy developments will be driven by digitalization that opens up currently unimaginable possibilities for technical innovations, and by new business models and solutions that extend beyond the energy sector alone. However the energy system may look like in the future: Siemens has played a major role in its development over the past 150 years and continues to be the right partner – innovative and competent – when it comes to making energy systems fit for the 21st century!”, says Lisa Davis, Member of the Siemens Management Board
Three scenarios for 2060
How the power supply is going to develop will also depend on which strategies countries pursue. The World Energy Council has identified three scenarios for the year 2060: in the first, the future course is market-driven. In the second, governments steer the transformation of their energy systems by means of regulations and subsidies. The third scenario is called "Hard Rock," meaning that countries focus only on their own national interests.
What effects would each of the three strategies have on global energy consumption? If national interests prevail, the study predicts, it would rise by 46%. If the future is left to market forces, it would rise by 38%. The best prospects are achieved if governments intervene: then global energy consumption would increase by "only" 22%.
Stop climate change
But for all the forecasts and figures, we should not forget what it is all about: of course, the primary focus is on a reliable power supply. But just as strong is the motivation to limit global warming to a minimum. That will be possible only if CO2 emissions are reduced drastically. Of course, zero-emissions power generation would be ideal. The World Energy Council, a non-governmental organization, believes that the latter is set to become more important: while African nations will in future give priority to building hydroelectric power plants, Asia, and especially China, is aiming for distributed structures based on the renewables and new nuclear power plants. Which direction developments in that huge country are going to take is as yet undecided.
According to the findings of the captioned study, CO2 emissions will have passed their peak sometime between 2020 and 2040 and, in all probability, will then start to decline again. Here the World Energy Council's three scenarios come into play again: if individual countries insist on their own national systems, carbon dioxide emissions will be higher in 2060 than in 2014. If the world is left to the market forces, emissions will drop by 28%. If the governments responsible intervene by passing targeted legislation, emissions could drop by 61%.
Different energy transitions
But which energy system is actually the right one? Our experts think there is no universal paradigm. Countries and regions shape "their own" energy transition according to their own situation and capabilities. For example, as we see it
- Europe will stick to its current course, aiming to increase the share of the renewables to up to 50% by 2030. On the fossil side, priority will be given to promoting gas power plants as a versatile, environmentally-friendly way to generate electric power.
- Drastic changes are under way in the Chinese energy system in terms of the energy mix and regulation. Here efforts to build up new generation capacities are concentrating on wind and solar power. Alongside nuclear power, fossil fuels, especially gas, will continue to be promoted.
The ongoing trends in these regions will probably continue beyond the year 2030.
But not everything lends itself to prediction. Uncertainties include, for instance, disruptions in the development of key technologies and political decisions. For example, global taxation of CO2 emissions would have tremendous impacts on energy systems. We can also speculate at length about whether nuclear fusion will be able to make a major contribution to power generation by 2060. Or whether in 40 years it will be possible to stabilize wind turbines at sea so that offshore windfarms will be able to "float" over the entire surface of the oceans. Or whether by that time continents can be connected to each other by power lines. The future of the energy system will be definitely complex.
More Information about how we understand sustainable Energy at Siemens: http://www.siemens.com/global/en/home/company/topic-areas/sustainable-energy.html
Read the interesting interview with WEC CEO Christoph Frei about how to manage future energy systems within our Siemens Customer Magazine: https://www.siemens.com/customer-magazine/en/home/energy/renewable-energy/managing-energy-systems-in-the-future.html
Kristina Dotzauer 13/12/2016
In just a few years from now, the energy supply system we know today will no longer be recognizable, growing steadily more complex and dynamic as increasing numbers of distributed power producers are integrated. Sophisticated data analysis capacities and flexible demand and load controls will be essential to intelligently controlling the system and making it economically viable for all stakeholders.
It wasn't but a few years ago that the world of power generation and distribution was readily comprehensible and manageable: the power supply system consisted of large power plants and electricity grids. Power always flowed from the producers to the consumers. Load control was easy to regulate.
Since then, the energy transition has revolutionized the entire system, requiring today the integration of small, widely diverse and distributed power producers into the grid. And these new players are assuming a dual role: they can act as producers as well as consumers, which means power currents must be able to flow in both directions.
The grid as connecting link
This new setting raises a number of questions: how can electricity, particularly from producers generating fluctuating volumes, be intelligently controlled so that grid stability is not impaired? How can control and reserve capacities be maintained, i.e. with green power as well? How can supply and demand be forecasted and balanced? Can grids be coordinated like other infrastructure systems such as the natural gas network, district heating systems, and the demand posed by cities and major industrial consumers?
The grid is the solution! The grid will play an even larger role in future as the connecting link between power generation and consumption – provided it becomes flexible and smart. And this is where digital technologies come into play. We're talking here not just about intelligent sensors, broad-band communication connections, and large computer systems and data storage devices: The most valuable raw material in the future will be the captured data.
Data analysis in demand
From the collected raw data (from every sort of data source), correlations can be recognized and valuable information won. Fitting algorithms and in-depth data analyses enable more accurate forecasting, for example to optimize grid operation or resolve emerging problems in a timely manner. Hence, the grid will be assuming new functions which also offer potential value creation opportunities for grid operators.
Yet, new possibilities for digital applications arise already much earlier, in the product itself – and across the entire product life cycle. To illustrate using wind turbines as an example, this comprises any number of opportunities ranging from developing and modifying virtual models right through to virtual coordination of the control system and electrical components and simulation of the broadest possible range of weather conditions in order to achieve optimum rotor positioning and thus the highest efficiency, as well as virtual optimization of wind farm operation. It likewise integrates factory planning, plant and unit configuration, production and operation as well as service.
Virtual power plant
This generates numerous benefits for manufacturers, including shorter time to market, more efficient use of materials, and new service opportunities (such as condition monitoring and remote maintenance). And despite series manufacturing, manufacturers can custom-tailor turbines to each customer's needs and wishes. These are just a few examples showing what new value-adding potential can arise from digitalization.
Looking at it from a broad perspective, the entire power supply system will benefit as it becomes more efficient and thereby more cost-effective and thus more profitable: With the aid of digital technologies and using weather forecasts as a basis, fossil-fired and renewable power producers, including all the various energy storage systems (pumped hydro storage, batteries, and natural gas and hot water networks), can be coordinated and united to form a virtual power plant to accommodate load peaks when needed, and to stabilize the grid.
This requires automated systems, sophisticated data analysis, the appropriate software and expert domain know-how in order to be able to properly evaluate the data. And that's not just to collect and administer data, but also to link the existing power grids and coordinate the various infrastructures. This will provide the means to cost-optimize energy supply and, most importantly, design systems for maximum sustainability.
“Digitalization is the game changer - by collecting data and knowing how to analyze it, we can rapidly translate immense quantities of information into continually optimized operational decisions.”, says Lisa Davis, Member of the Siemens Management Board
Kristina Dotzauer 06/12/2016
The transformation to low-carbon energy supply systems is the only way to lower greenhouse gas emissions and stop global warming. Achieving this transformation to a sustainable energy supply system, however, will require steadily expanding the use of renewable energy sources and turning to natural gas as the preferred fossil fuel. Combined heat and power generation (cogeneration), more efficient use of energy, and changes in consumer behavior can also contribute to transforming the overall system. Good examples of successful cogeneration applications are the record-breaking combined-cycle unit Fortuna at Lausward Power Stations in Düsseldorf, Germany and the major projects being erected in Egypt, including three 4.8-gigawatt turnkey combined-cycle power plants and twelve wind farms comprising some 600 wind turbines in total. The ideal we seek to achieve one day is when all of our processes and activities are carbon-neutral.
“A major step towards decarbonization was taken at the COP 21 Climate Summit in Paris, December 2015: for the first time, broad political consensus was reached on achieving greater sustainability. But truly sustainable energy transitions throughout the world can only succeed when the respective national economy can in fact afford the changes or when less industrialized countries are supported in their efforts”, says Lisa Davis, Member of the Siemens Management Board.
We've made a good start. Use of renewable energy sources is currently on the rise, and natural gas is slowly but surely supplanting coal for fossil-fired power generation – also in coutries like China that currently still focuses on coal. Of course, these trends towards renewables are due substantially to the drop in prices for these energy technologies. Prices for wind power technology have sunk by 45% over the past 20 years, while the solar power industry has seen technology prices tumble by 75% from 2005 to 2015. What's more, current natural prices are 60% lower than they were in the year 2000.
Lower Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE)
Equipment manufacturing has gotten less expensive thanks primarily to the industrialization of renewables. Innovations in materials, technologies and fabrication processes have also brought costs down.
Energy storage technologies are also becoming more economical. More than anything else, demand for electro mobility is driving major advances in battery technology. Mass production is making batteries less expensive and thus attractive energy storage solutions of the future – such as for home-generated electricity.
The electrical power supply system is changing slowly, but steadily. Integration of renewable energy sources is enhancing sustainability – and not just in terms of cost efficiency. Since the supply of sun and wind will never dry up, ensuring a reliable supply of power is no problem provided the system is based on a combination of renewables and natural gas.
Fossil fuels such as natural gas are becoming the backbone of the energy system – especially highly efficient natural gas-fired power plants that can start up and shut down very rapidly, enabling them to step in when wind doldrums occur or cloud cover hides the sun.
Converting Energy into Hydrogen
There are no economic reasons that speak against transforming the system. On the contrary, the energy turnaround is challenging the industry's innovative spirit and will most certainly open up whole new business segments. It is pushing technologies and processes for transforming energy extracted by environmentally friendly means and storing it in other media, making it readily available for later use in a wide range of applications.
One example of these innovative techniques is the power-to-gas process by which excess wind and solar power is converted into the energy carriers hydrogen and methane. A research facility in the Hechtsheim District of Mainz, Germany, the only one of its kind in the world, has been in operation since July 2015. There, environmentally friendly electricity is used to split water into oxygen and hydrogen.
Hydrogen is an extremely versatile energy carrier: It can be used as fuel for cars, transformed back into electric power, or "methanized", which is combining hydrogen with carbon dioxide to synthesize methane, the main component of natural gas. And that's just a few of the options available for using hydrogen. Hydrogen is an essential "material" in the chemical industry.
The chemicals sector could be trailblazers on the path to a low-carbon future. One intermediate chemical product is carbon monoxide (CO), a substance conventionally produced from fossil fuels. That process could in future be dispensed with because catalytic converters can be used to generate CO, again from hydrogen and CO2. This would offer an additional way, along with methanization, of rendering this greenhouse gas unharmful.
From today's perspective it appears that the various systems for electricity, heating, cooling, gas and water will one day be coupled and work together. Our task will be to develop the technologies needed to do that.
Increasing digitalization will play a major role in these efforts. Just what sort of impacts this will have on energy supply systems is what we will be looking at in our next article.
Kristina Dotzauer 01/12/2016
Times are more exciting than ever, as the energy market is on the move. Every country and every region is pursuing its entirely own goals with its own energy turnaround or transition, focusing for example on energy security, decarbonization, or expanding its energy systems to enhance the reliability of energy supply. Added to that come the new technologies as well as new business models that arise from digitalization. Where is this journey taking us? What trends will shape the upcoming years, and what will it all mean for future energy supply? Those are just a few of the questions on our mind.
The past 12 months have been marked by the following developments: After a period of steady decline, the price of oil climbed again slightly. Worldwide hunger for energy is growing, with demand for oil, natural gas and electricity steadily rising.
One basic tenet still holds true: Energy must be available, affordable, and increasingly sustainable as well. That is not a contradiction of terms, and it was clearly evident in 2015, which will go down in history as the first year in which the newly installed electrical generating capacity of wind and solar farms outstripped that of new fossil-fuel power plant capacity. This is due not least to the intensified climate debate and the necessity of reducing CO2 emissions to prevent global warming from exceeding 1,5°C relative to pre-industrial levels.
And while one of the major levers for promoting sustainability is greater efficiency, cross-sector technologies are also in demand. These are technologies that enable the electric power generated from renewable energy sources to be used in other fields, for example for heating and hot-water supply, or for electric cars. Electricity can also be used to produce hydrogen, making the gas an alternative means of storing excess energy.
Scenarios of 2030
Let's take a look ahead, into the future. From our vantage point we see a number of trends taking shape by the year 2030. The most important of these trends are listed below according to industry, technology and region and presented in annual average rates of increase (Data source: IHS Energy):
- Worldwide oil and gas production will increase by 1.4%. Asia, America, Africa an the Middle East will experience the strongest growth.
- Electricity consumption will increase by 2.6% worldwide. Asia will account for the sharpest rise. This is a sign that a growing number of applications will be based on electric power rather than fossil fuels.
- The electrical generating capacities of gas turbine power plants will be continuously expanded.
- Growth in the wind power sector will slow somewhat in Europe and the United States. This will be made up for by the Middle East and Africa.
- Europe will remain leader in the exploitation of solar power. The largest growth is expected in the Middle East.
These projected developments also pose numerous challenges. The rising number of distributed power producers, for example, must be integrated into the electrical grid, while at the same time gird stability must be maintained. Despite the fluctuating power feed-in from renewable energy sources (such as solar and wind energy), a reliable and adequate power supply must be ensured. Demand is growing not just for energy storage solutions: There is also growing demand to financially promote new cross-sector technologies so that it is economically worthwhile to transform energy into other media. Some of the technologies needed are already available and in practice, while others still need development work. The trick will be to intelligently combine these technologies.
”The transition to a new era of energy is reality.
In this new energy world, Siemens is the trusted partner for joint efforts in further evolving a sustainable energy system”, says Lisa Davis, Member of the Siemens Management Board.
In our next article we'll take a closer look at decarbonization in the energy sector. After all, there are solid, compelling reasons for the boom in low-carbon fossil fuels (natural gas) and the broadly expanded use of renewable energy sources.
Kristina Dotzauer 16/11/2016
Electricity supply systems in the past consisted of national power utilities or major private-sector power providers with their large-scale power plants and power transmission and distribution grids. That landscape is set to change over the coming years. Now that technologies for environmentally friendly power production have reached competitive parity, the focus on distributed power generation is steadily growing. This means that end-consumers can now also become power producers – such as building owners or small communities, for example, as well as industrial installations and commercial buildings that generate and consume their own energy locally. Each of these actors, however, needs a customized design solution that considers and balances reliability of supply, low costs, efficiency and environmental compatibility.
Distributed Power Systems
Yet, before answering the question of what technical solutions fit best, we should clarify what distributed power systems are understood to be. These are systems that generate energy near to the consumers, for example in small communities or industrial parks. Multiple small power producers can join together to form what are called microgrids and, if necessary, disconnect from the public grid and operate their microgrid autonomously. The required energy is supplied by combined heat and power (cogeneration) plants, fuel cells, wind turbines or photovoltaic solar power systems, and by hydropower projects given conducive local geological conditions. Energy storage systems and pumped storage hydroelectric power plants play an important role by enabling interim storage of energy won from volatile sources. Consumers can design their energy mix to include flexible natural gas- or biomass-fired power plants to compensate for fluctuating feed-in from wind and solar power sources.
What makes distributed power generation so attractive? That question is simple to answer: It provides energy independence and allows producers to control their own costs. Distributed power systems that can disconnect from major power grids are more resilient, as they're less susceptible to the impacts of power outages. The electricity they produce is fed straight into their medium- and low-voltage network, thereby extensively avoiding transformation losses.
The major driver of this trend is the fact that material and production costs of technologies for generating power from renewable energy sources are steadily sinking. Innovations in materials and fabrication processes have also brought costs down. Energy storage technologies are also becoming more economical. This all means that renewable energy can meanwhile compete with fossil fuel power generation. The liberalization of energy markets and pursuit of enabling environmental policies have likewise driven this parity. Public policy taking up the cause of environmentally friendly technologies ultimately leads to more flexible designing of power generation and transmission systems. These developments are paralleled by the increasing degree of digitalization of installations. Moving forward, it will be possible to manage energy systems intelligently based on information and communication technology, enabling grids to be monitored, controlled and optimized in real time. This makes systems more flexible while enhancing quality and strengthening supply security.
Demand for energy is growing worldwide. We must not forget that today almost 1.2 billion people, for example in Asia and Africa, have no reliable supply of electricity and suffer from frequent power outages due to aging infrastructure or extreme weather conditions such as storms, drought, flooding or earthquakes. These regions need clean, affordable energy to enable them to drive their socio-economic development. At the same time, all actors involved must make every effort to ensure that electric power is generated by environmentally compatible means in order to lower CO2 emissions to avert the catastrophic threats of climate change.
Various solution approaches
Within the foreseeable future, the currently simple, centralized power supply model will transform into a marketplace offering a wide range of solutions. Yet, we don't have to wait for the energy turnaround dictated by public policymakers. Our customers can lead the way and design their own energy turnaround. The technologies needed to do so are available, and can be custom-tailored to their specific needs.
We’ve based our solution on the concept just explained: It's called Distributed Energy Systems (DES), i.e. decentralized energy systems, and stands for holistic, end-to-end energy concepts comprising power generation, combined heat and power production (cogeneration), energy storage (including electric cars) and distributed energy management systems. Customized configurations enable users to become autonomous units generating their own electricity and using the energy they generate for heating and cooling purposes.
These systems yield numerous benefits, such as independence from major-utility power providers, establishment of your own environmentally friendly power supply (particularly advantageous in regions not equipped with the necessary infrastructure), lower costs, increased efficiency and strengthened security of supply. Customers with access to the public grid can even earn revenue, profiting for example from being able to feed into the grid any unconsumed power they've produced and selling it to other consumers.
We've meanwhile successfully completed numerous DES projects, for example for the Blue Lake Rancheria in northern California and Wesleyan University in the city of Middletown, Connecticut in the United States.
More details about Distributed Energy Systems are available at: http://www.siemens.com/global/en/home/company/topic-areas/sustainable-energy/distributed-energy-systems.html
Or visit us at Smart City Expo World Congress 2016, Nov 15th – 17th, Barcelona, to learn how Distributed Energy Systems lead into a new era: http://www.siemens.com/global/en/home/company/fairs-events/scewc.html
Kristina Dotzauer 16/11/2016
From the icy coasts of Canada’s British Columbia and Russia’s Yamal Peninsula, via the jungles of Papua New Guinea and the beaches of northern Mozambique, liquefied natural gas (LNG) project developers face a rapidly evolving and challenging market.
Global gas and LNG markets are unique. Producers trade into less liquid markets than oil and are more constrained by the storage and transport challenges unique to the commodity. Contracts, conditions and pricing formulas all vary considerably.
Like the oil market however, the LNG market faces a number of challenges. These include a wave of price-inelastic supplies coming on line – owing to investment decisions taken when oil prices were around £100/barrel – and structural changes on the demand side that have reduced demand responsiveness to low prices.
The need for efficiencies
Both these structural market shifts, and the cost overruns witnessed in many recent LNG projects, have highlighted the industry’s need to reduce its cost base. As a recent Siemens interview highlighted, general upstream capital costs for LNG increased by 129 percent between 2000 and 2014, making investment decisions even more challenging.
Automation, digitization and electrification are among the tools we are using to help our partners make significant efficiency gains. This ranges from using an increasing wealth of data from facilities to reduce servicing costs and minimise downtime; offering modular services to control capex – important for onshore construction sites that lack infrastructure and qualified labour, or remote offshore sites where weight and space minimization are paramount; or leveraging our extensive experience in challenging frontier sites and unconventional fields.
The shift of the LNG market
It is clear that the market has shifted markedly in recent years. The traditional demand drivers of Japan and South Korea are unlikely to grow, and the outlook for China and India is decidedly mixed. Demand is rising across a number of emerging markets however – and Europe, where supply diversification is a growing force.
A number of exporting countries, meanwhile, could also run out of gas near the end of existing contracts with buyers. The Netherlands’ Groningen field for example – which once met 10% of the EU’s gas requirements – has seen production halve in the past two years; buyers are already turning elsewhere.
In the 2020s, this resource maturity is also likely to result in LNG output decline for Indonesia, Malaysia and Trinidad, with growing domestic demand also potentially slowing output in North Africa. The contestable LNG market, as a result, may prove larger than incremental growth in demand would suggest (world natural gas consumption grew by 1.7% in 2015, below the 10-year average of 2.3%, and global LNG trade rose 1.8%).
Natural gas meanwhile continues to constitute 23.8% of primary energy consumption – and forms a vital “bridge” to a cleaner global energy supply; when replacing other fossil-fuels, it can lead to lower emissions of greenhouse gases and local pollutants.
Modern, highly efficient CCGT power stations are also a perfect combination with intermittent renewables generation, owing to their rapid ‘rampability’ and efficiency. Gas may be oil’s invisible sidekick, but it is vital to a cleaner energy system.
With LNG trade having increased from 102 mtpa in 2000 to 245 mtpa in 2015 and the number and diversity of LNG players along the gas value chain having substantially increased, the market is going to continue to evolve. Market rebalancing is a few years off yet, but is coming: meanwhile, the most cost-competitive and robust projects will win.
To learn more about our Oil and Gas portfolio please go to: http://w3.siemens.com/markets/global/en/oil-gas/Pages/oil-gas.aspx