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Speeding the Adoption of Microgrids and Distributed Energy

Shell Microgrid Doubles as Research Lab for Testing New Energy Solutions

Project Name
Microgrid Demonstration Project
Location
Houston, TX - U.S.A.
Client
Shell International Exploration & Production Inc.

Thomas Edison's invention of the electric lightbulb changed the world. But he also advocated energy conservation and once said, "I'd put money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”

Shell isn’t waiting.

Black & Veatch designed, procured and constructed a microgrid for Shell, which is using it to generate power while it also serves as a working test lab to explore advancements in renewable energy.

Conventional fuel sources will remain an integral part of the energy system but renewables are expected to grow from approximately 1 percent to 40-50 percent of the total system during the next few decades. Shell’s microgrid is intended to speed the adoption of technology by helping researchers better understand the challenges of integrating the components to provide safe, seamless, reliable power to consumers.

Microgrids are integrated systems of multiple power generation sources and electric loads. They can produce and distribute electricity and operate independently from the larger power grid, and they can be used to provide reliable service to remote areas. Black & Veatch is leading the design of microgrids that help companies 1) achieve sustainability goals; 2) maintain business continuity by avoiding power disruptions; and 3) save on their utility costs.

Shell’s microgrid operates at the Shell Technology Center Houston (STCH), where approximately 2,000 scientists, technologists and engineers are working to solve energy challenges. Shell has the potential to make a significant impact on the global shift toward renewable energy, and Black & Veatch is partnering with the company to unlock that potential by testing new energy sources in a risk-free environment.

“We know the energy system is changing and inside Shell, we are trying to figure out what type of projects we are going to build in the future. There’s no better way to do that than learning it ourselves, on site,” said Ajay Mehta, Shell’s General Manager for New Energies Research & Technology

Black & Veatch designed and constructed a microgrid that brings together solar photovoltaic and a natural gas-fueled reciprocating engine, as well as battery energy storage technology and other elements to create a sustainable, resilient, flexible microgrid system. The microgrid also features ASSET360®, a cloud-based data analytics platform available through Black & Veatch's software subsidiary, Atonix Digital. It will provide Shell with performance monitoring and data analysis as they examine energy consumption.

Understanding the Unpredictable

The demand for energy isn’t consistent through the 24-hour daily cycle, nor is the supply when you factor in the intermittent supply from sources like the sun. Being able to respond to continuous changes in power supply based on demand is what makes Shell’s microgrid unique.

“By flexing the system, Shell can see how the equipment would perform in different scenarios, and this helps them understand how they might best deploy renewable energy and deliver seamless power to consumers,” explained Dustin Rogge, Microgrid Solutions Manager, Black & Veatch. Flexing the system is important to Shell, because different conditions around the world change the parameters for renewable energy generation and deployment.

As a working research lab, Shell’s microgrid serves more than one purpose. It has an automated load bank that can simulate different electrical loads so Shell can experiment with how much power to generate or absorb at any given time. That could mean using the battery to absorb excess solar energy, or using that excess energy to power onsite devices – or even exporting it to the grid for revenue.  In this way, the microgrid helps pay for itself.

STCH Microgrid
 
“It’s exciting and we’ve had a really good time collaborating with Black & Veatch. Research projects require so much flexibility, and you’re trying things that have never been done before, so it sometimes can be difficult to land on the right technical requirements. Black & Veatch did a good job of helping us land on the right system, with the right design, and it has given us all the flexibility we need.”

 

- Jon La Follet
Energy System Integration and Storage Program Lead
Shell New Energies Research and Technology

Another exciting component of this project is the planned collaboration with Shell to demonstrate the technology on their campus and at Black & Veatch World Headquarters.  Because both microgrids use the ASSET360® smart analytics platform, comparisons in performance and operating characteristics will enable the two companies to provide real-world data when predicting other locations’ performance.

“Our microgrid will enable us to develop solutions to complex renewable energy system integration challenges. These solutions will enable Shell to leverage the value of renewable energy, accelerate its integration into existing Shell operations and further drive the adoption of more and cleaner energy solutions for the future,” Mehta concluded.

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