Finding extraordinary engineers for exceptional clients

Averting bridge disasters: New technology could save hundreds of lives

July 29th, 2011
Millions of US drivers cross faulty or obsolete bridges every day, highway statistics show, but it's too costly to fix these spans or adequately monitor their safety, says a researcher who's developed a new, affordable early warning system. This wireless technology could avert the kind of fatal disaster along Minneapolis' I-35W on Aug. 1, 2007, he says -- and do so at one-one-hundredth the cost of current wired systems.

Siemens to buy HRSG specialists NEM and NES

July 29th, 2011

Siemens plans to acquire Dutch sister companies NEM B.V. and Nem Energy Services B.V. (NES), which are specialists in heat recovery steam generators (HRSGs) for combined-cycle power plants.

NEM mainly designs, engineers and sells HRSGs, while NES is in the associated service business. NEM and NES have headquarters in Leiden and Utrecht and operate worldwide with branches or affiliates in Egypt, Germany, Malaysia, the UAE and the USA.

“Heat recovery steam generators are key components for our business and account for about 15 per cent of the value creation in the construction of a combined-cycle power plant,” said Roland Fischer, CEO of the Fossil Power Generation Division within Siemens’ Energy Sector.

“This purchase enables us to expand our capacities and enhance our expertise over the long term.”

In 2007, Siemens took over the HRSG business of Balcke Dürr Austria GmbH. Expertise in heat recovery steam generators also helped Siemens recently achieve a net efficiency of 60.75 per cent at Irsching 4.

Siemens has already been working with NEM and NES for several years, most recently on the Dutch Enecogen, Diemen and Hemweg projects and on the T- Power project in Belgium.

Subject to approval by anti-trust authorities, Siemens will purchase the company NES and will take over the major part of NEM’s business. Siemens expects the purchase price to be in the region of EUR170m ($243m), but the final price will depend on how business develops at NEM and NES until financial closing.

The two firms together employ a workforce of around 1000 and booked sales of EUR325m ($464m) in fiscal 2010, ending 30 September. They are currently owned by HTP Capital B.V.

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UK Flies 3D-Printed UAV

July 29th, 2011
University of Southampton* engineers say they have built and flown the first fully "printed" aircraft - a small UAV called SULSA - its entire structure including wings, integral control surfaces and access panels 3D-printed using a nylon laser sintering machine.

blog post photo
Photo: University of Southampton

Laser sintering fabricates an object by taking the 3D design model, cutting it into thin slices and building it up layer by layer, in this case by melting nylon power. The team designed and built the SULSA (aka Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft) in a week.

Video: New Scientist

The 2m-span UAV has a geodesic structure, which is light and stiff but complex and expensive to manufacture by traditional methods. Same goes for the elliptic wing, which reduces drag but is hard to build. Moving control surfaces were printed integrally with the structure and all equipment attached using 'snap fit' techniques to allow the vehicle to be assembled in minutes without fasteners or tools.

SULSA is part of the Decode project, funded by the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, to apply advanced manufacturing capabilities to UAVs.

* My alma mater

Emulating nature for better engineering

July 28th, 2011
Researchers in the UK describe a novel approach to making porous materials, solid foams, more like their counterparts in the natural world, including bone and wood.

Gamesa and Iberdrola end wind farm alliance

July 28th, 2011

Gamesa and Iberdrola have informed Spain's National Securities Market Commission (CNMV) that they have agreed to unwind their strategic alliance in wind farm development.

A substantial change in market conditions due to the global economic downturn and a shift in the companies’ strategies prompted the decision, said the firms.

The strategic agreement, originally signed on 13 June 2008 and amended on 23 September 2009, envisaged a series of cross-linked options on some Gamesa wind farms in Spain and other countries in Europe, as well as the possibility of joint development and operation of wind farm projects in these areas.

Gamesa and Iberdrola said they hope to continue working together to bolster their position in the wind energy business, as they have done for 15 years in several international markets.

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Falling water levels hit CEB

July 28th, 2011

Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) has been hit by falling reservoir water levels, which have cut its output to just 25 per cent of nominal hydropower capacity.

The closure of the 165 MW AES Kelanitissa combined cycle plant for repairs has aggravated the supply shortage, said the Power and Energy Ministry. The plant is due to return to operation on 31 July, said CEB chairman Professor Abeywickrema. CEB engineers said a recurring problem affected the plant's gear mechanism.

CEB unsuccessfully attempted to start its Fiat gas turbine after the shutdown of the AES plant. The machine will now be shipped to Italy for repairs.

CEB is now operating five of its oldest 20 MW gas turbines, which were installed 30 years ago and run on auto diesel. Their high generating costs of $0.27-0.50 per unit are causing massive losses for the firm.

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Nigeria to spend $5.8bn on power over next two years

July 28th, 2011

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has announced plans to develop the country’s economy that include investing $5.8bn up to 2013 into alternative energy and power generation, transmission and distribution.

While power generation saw a “remarkable improvement” in the first quarter of 2011, the government is working to raise current output of 4000 MW through ongoing projects across the country, according to the report ‘The First National Implementation Plan for 20:2020’, which aims for Nigeria to be among the world’s top 20 economies by 2020.

The plan’s objectives include cutting the proportion of Nigerians – currently 40 per cent – that lack access to electricity due to the inadequate transmission and distribution network, coupled with an ageing infrastructure.

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Japan’s Chugoku restarts 1000 MW coal fired unit

July 28th, 2011

Chugoku Electric Power has resumed power generation from its 1000 MW Misumi 1 coal fired plant, following unplanned repair work necessitated by boiler problems, said the Japanese firm.

The restart will help Chugoku meet peak summer electricity demand. Chugoku now expects to have capacity of 13,350 MW in August, a 14.6 per cent margin over expected peak demand of 11,650 MW.

Chugoku said that it plans to provide up to 720 MW to assist Kansai Electric, which is struggling to meet peak summer demand, as only 4 of its 11 nuclear reactors are operating. Chugoku is currently supplying 570 MW to Kansai.

Taking into account power assistance to Kansai Electric, Chugoku expects to have a 8.4 per cent reserve margin to ensure it can maintain stable power supplies.

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Vattenfall sells its Belgian operations

July 27th, 2011

Vattenfall has agreed to sell its Belgian operations for about $227m to Italian energy company Eni on an enterprise value basis.

The transaction covers Nuon Belgium N.V. as well as its subsidiary Nuon Wind Belgium N.V. and Nuon Power Generation Walloon N.V.

Nuon Belgium serves about 550,000 electricity and gas connection points and has about 150 employees. Nuon Belgium also holds 4.5 MW renewable energy capacity through its subsidiary Nuon Wind Belgium. Nuon Power Generation Walloon comprises a CCGT (Combined Cycle Gas Turbine) power generation project in an advanced stage of development.

Vattenfall and Eni expect the transaction to be completed in 2011 after European Competition approval is obtained.

The sale of Vattenfall’s Belgian operations is part of Vattenfall’s new strategic direction as announced in September 2010, focusing on the core business and markets in Sweden, Germany and Netherlands.

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South Korea buys share in Jamaican electricity company

July 27th, 2011

Korea East-West Power Company Limited (EWP) has negotiated a deal with the Jamaica government, which has agreed for Marubeni to transfer 50 per cent of its shares in the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) to EWP.

Jamaica currently cannot afford modern, efficient plants fuelled by cheaper energy sources, which are its only real route to lower energy costs, said Jamaica’s energy and mining minister Clive Mullings, speaking in support of the deal.

“EWP is wholly owned by the Government of South Korea, and is the largest thermal power company in that country, owning and operating over 9000 MW,” he said.

“Its experience will allow us to pursue the best strategy to significantly reduce the high prices local consumers have to pay for electricity.”

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