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French nuclear probe could impact on Hinkley Point

January 4th, 2017

The French regulator, Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN) is planning a more thorough investigation into the Areva nuclear power company as concerns about part quality and documentation remain.

There is a particular focus on whether a practice of falsifying documents, or cutting corners on document accuracy, have facilitated poor quality nuclear equipment parts.

David Emond, head of Areva’s component manufacturing business, said that while 70 components with falsified documents had found their way into French nuclear reactors — and 120 into overseas power plants — no safety problems has so far been discovered.

“It was wrong, but it seems to have been more of a cultural problem than a safety-related technical problem,” he said.

The situation is compounded by issues uncovered relating to the nuclear reactor to be used at the EDF-owned Flamanville nuclear power plant in France. A two year-long investigation is to conclude with the presentation of a report to the ASN in the coming weeks.

According to a report in the FT, if the structural weaknesses initially found on the reactor vessel are as serious as feared it could have an effect on the development of the Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor in the UK.Julien Collet

EDF’s British plant is set to use the same technology as its sister plant and the financial support package the UK government has offered for Hinkley is premised on Flamanville being operational by 2020.

Any significant problems with the Flamanville reactor vessel would mean restarting much of the construction work in France, which is already billions of euros over budget and years late.

The focus of that part of the investigation is Areva’s component factory at Le Creusot where some steel components— notably parts used in steam generators — were found to have excessive carbon levels, which could make them vulnerable to cracking.

Julien Collet (above right), deputy director of the ASN, France’s nuclear regulator, said he wanted to “go much further” with investigations into Areva’s components.

The ASN ordered a halt to operations at 18 plants for a short time after the discovery of high carbon levels in components made at the facility. The ASN also said some of the components with high carbon levels were supplied by Japan Casting and Forging Corporation, acting as a subcontractor to Areva.

All the plants have since been allowed to restart, and the ASN and EDF have said there are no safety concerns.

Dong sells 50 per cent of UK wind operation for £1.6bn

January 3rd, 2017

Denmark’s Dong Energy has opted to sell half of its Race Bank wind farm to Australian investment bank Macquarie, in a deal worth £1.6bn.

It’s the Australian group’s biggest investment in offshore wind power yet, and also raised the profits for Dong, whose chief executive Henrik Poulsen acknowledged a successful 2016.
Dong turbine
We have had a really good year . . . and made significant strategic and operational progress in all business units [which] have delivered better than expected or to the high end of our expectations,” Poulsen said.

Race Bank, which is located about 17 miles off the north Norfolk and Lincolnshire coasts will produce enough electricity to power more than 400,000 British households once fully commissioned in 2018.

The deal led Dong to increase its 2016 operating profit forecast to $3.4bn-$3.5bn this year, up about 14 per cent from an earlier guidance range.

As part of the UK deal, Macquarie has agreed to fund half of the capital expenditure costs for the project, which will have a generation capacity of 573 MW and is in advanced stages of construction. It is being financed with a mixture of debt and equity.

Chris Archer, the Macquarie managing director who led negotiations with Dong, predicted that offshore wind power prices would continue to decline on both sides of the North Sea as the industry matures. Returns on investment would remain attractive despite falling prices, he said, because of lower construction costs and the increasing scale of projects.

E.ON and RWE opt to clear nuclear waste bill with single payment

January 3rd, 2017

Germany’s two top power utilities have agreed with the government to pay their contribution to the country’s nuclear waste storage costs in one lump sum payment.
Terium and Teyssen
The utilities had been presented with the option of contributing this year to a $24.7bn fund in exchange for shifting liability for nuclear waste storage to the state, giving investors greater clarity over the companies' future finances.

Under the deal, E.ON and RWE must pay about EUR10bn and EUR6.8bn respectively.

Reuters reports that the companies had been pushing for favourable terms of payment and the October deal allows them to transfer the funds at one stroke by mid-2017 or in several more costly instalments over the next decade.

"We don't need to draw on the possibility of payment by instalments," RWE Chief Executive Rolf Martin Schmitz said in an interview with Die Welt, adding that RWE was "well positioned" after raising billions in a stock listing of a minority holding in energy group Innogy.

E.ON CEO Johannes Teyssen also told newspaper Rheinische Post that the group had enough financial flexibility to avoid paying in several steps.

Collapse of wind turbine under investigation

January 3rd, 2017

The collapse of a 95 metre high wind turbine in Saxony, eastern Germany, on Thursday is under investigation.

The Saxony online daily Sächsische Zeitung (SZ) here reported the incident at the wind farLeisnig wind turbine collapsem near Leisnig. So fa the investigation has found that one of three blades failed catastrophically, thus creating a huge imbalance that caused the tower to buckle 15 meters above the ground and led to the structure crashing down.

According to the report, “Through the force of the impact, the gearbox unit was driven almost 2 meters into the earth.”

The incident comes weeks after a similar turbine collapse in the Mecklenburg Pommeria town of Süderholz. BILD daily reported how a wind turbine tower snapped in half and crashed to the ground. An investigation is also underway there and Süderholz mayor Alexander Benkert ordered the other remaining turbines to be thoroughly inspected.

The tower snapped 25 meters up but that no one was injured.

Doosan contracted to build 2.6 GW of coal capacity

January 3rd, 2017

Doosan Heavy Industries has won a $2.3bn contract to build 2,640 MW of new coal-fired power capacity in India.

The contract, awarded by the Indian State Government of Uttar Pradesh to Doosan Power Systems India (DPSI) will lead to the construction of two thermoelectric power plants in the region.

Doosan will build two power generators, each with 660 MW capacity, at the Obra-C coal-fired electrical power plant in Sonebhadra. The firm will also build another two generators, each with 660 MW capacity, at the Jawaharpur coal-fired electrical power plant in Etah.

The company’s engineering, procurement and construction division chief Kim Heon-tak was reported by Korea Times as saying: "Doosan Heavy has put its utmost efforts into making inroads into India's power market. The two power plants will help satisfy the region's electricity demands.”

"The deal will mark a foothold for our future operation in India. The country is expected to consume a total of 18 GW of electricity a year by 2020."

Doosan expects to complete work at the Obra-C and Jawaharpur sites by October 2020 and February 2021 respectively.

Governments target energy efficiency in climate fight

December 29th, 2016

A new report finds that governments are paying closer attention to energy conservation programmes as part of meeting emissions reduction targets.

The report by The Economist Intelligence Unit cites International Energy Agency research showing that in 2030, energy efficiency will account for 49 per cent of global greenhouse gas reduction.

The report considers efficiency initiatives in five developed countries: the UK, Canada, Germany, France and the US.

The initiatives fall into three main categories: increasing access to information on energy use and ways to reduce it; offering incentives in the form of grants, loans or tax breaks for upgrades; and supporting or directly providing energy-use labelling and ratings systems for products and for buildings.

Gains-sharing deals between building owners and tenants, in which tenants’ energy charges are based on actual use and tenants share some of the costs of upgrades, have proven useful in boosting the energy efficiency of buildings, the research finds. The US ‘energy star’ product labelling scheme has also been successful in saving energy and reducing emissions.

However the report states that while promoting investment in energy efficiency, governments have identified a risk in the ‘rebound effect’, in which consumers – encouraged by greater energy efficiency of appliances – buy more gadgets that drive up their overall energy use.

To download the report click here


Fennovoima chooses Harmala as new chairman

December 28th, 2016

Finnish nuclear energy company Fennovoima has picked its preferred candidate to be the company’s new chairman.

It will propose Esa Härmälä to an Annual General Meeting in March, when the current chairman, Juhani Pitkäkoski, will step down after three years in the post.

Fennovoima was founded in 2007 to build new nuclear power plant Hanhikivi 1.

Härmälä said: “I want to be involved in advancing this project, which is important for the whole country. Fennovoima’s power plant will improve Finland’s energy self-sufficiency. Moreover, the emission-free electricity it generates will be crucial in the battle against climate change.”

Härmälä has been the Director-General of the Energy Department at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and has held leading positions in the Finnish State Forest Enterprise and the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners.

Boiler, turbine and generator market to decline by $77bn

December 28th, 2016

The global market for boilers, turbines, and generators is set to decrease from a cumulative $318bn during the 2010-2015 period to $241bn between now and 2020.

That’s the verdict of a new report which says thermal capacity declines due to an increased focus on renewable energy sources and environmental issues will drive the decrease.

In the report from research firm GlobalData, it states that to meet growing demand for electricity, countries worldwide have focused on increasing installed capacity, primarily in the nuclear and renewables sectors.

Aside from a transition towards cleaner sources of power generation, the other factors affecting the global boilers, turbines, and generators market are environmental concerns, tough economic conditions, and fluctuations in fossil fuel prices.

Swati Gupta, GlobalData’s power analyst, said: “China will be the leader in the boilers, turbines, and generators market, although its market is forecast to decline from around $17.7bn in 2015 to $14.9bn by 2020.

“Indeed, the gas power equipment market, although small when compared to the coal market, will register considerable growth over the forecast period, as China moves towards cleaner sources of power generation. As a means to achieve this, in its 12th Five-Year-Plan, China has set a target to increase the share of natural gas in its energy mix to 10 per cent by 2020. The government also plans to replace conventional coal power plants with advanced technology large capacity power plants, which will represent new opportunities for market players.”

GlobalData said that although the boilers, turbines, and generators market will continue to be dominated by China, with an expected 31 per cent share of this $47.8bn market in 2020, challenges will remain. “The market’s poor outlook in other regions, however, will ensure China remains dominant. In Europe, for example, declining electricity consumption coupled with increased emphasis on green energies will drive the boilers, turbines, and generators market down.” 

Reducing the impact of noise in cogeneration

December 21st, 2016

Early detection and preventative measures can mitigate the health and environmental impacts of noise in combined heat and power applications, writes Robert Lomax

An acoustic enclosure can be instsalled around a CHP prime mover

Credit: Wakefield Acoustics

Driven by fears about grid reliability, facilities from hospitals to hotels, factories to office buildings and even some residential apartments are turning to combined heat and power (CHP) to meet the growing demand for electricity. But despite its efficiency and environmental advantages, CHP still has its issues, most notably the excessive noise levels it can produce.

The benefits of cogeneration are well documented, with such systems typically cutting costs by 20 per cent compared to the use of grid electricity and on-site boilers. CHP can also significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions cost-effectively due to the technology's capability to be applied to existing energy installations. Such benefits, combined with the short return on investment they can bring, have seen a rise in cogeneration installations across the UK. There are now 2102 CHP schemes in operation in the UK alone, according to The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

However, with systems typically installed on-site to supply customers with heat and power directly at point of use, excessive noise remains a critical factor to address in many CHP installations. Along with legislation regarding the issue, increasing intolerance of environmental noise has only intensified the situation, requiring reductions in noise pollution from such applications. Noise control has therefore been a driving factor when having to meet regulatory and environmental noise requirements.

Given the capacity to produce excessive noise levels, most cogeneration facilities fall within the remit of two key pieces of noise legislation. Firstly, the Control of Noise At Work Regulations 2005, which lowered the upper and lower action levels by 5 dB(A) from 90 dB(A) to 85 dB(A) and from 85 dB(A) to 80 dB(A) respectively, and secondly, key legislation in the form of the Environmental Noise Directive. Faced with these challenges and stringent legislation, most cogeneration plant operators have, over the course of recent years, been taking a proactive approach to implementing noise management and attenuation measures within their facilities.

Addressing plant noise

The control of noise emissions from on-site power plants relies on a thorough understanding of issues and concerns around industrial noise generally. Cogeneration plant noise control and the principles of noise attenuation would apply to virtually every type of facility. Whether installed in a commercial setting, public building, industrial zone or as part of a district heating system, left untreated, large CHP systems emit high levels of noise which exceed the upper action limit of 85 dB (A) daily exposure levels. Additionally, plant operators are now demanding even lower noise levels within the working environment to limit noise exposure for employees.

All CHP systems contain a prime mover or electrical generator which emits noise levels considerably above the action limits stated above. This is not only an issue within the remits of the Noise at Work Regulations, but can also have a substantial environmental impact.

The ambient noise emitted from the prime mover or generator often transmits into adjacent areas; additionally, exhaust noise from the exhaust stream and noise produced via the air inlet and ventilation system can also carry into the surrounding environment unless suitably attenuated.

Most CHP schemes also have auxiliary equipment which generates noise either continually or intermittently. Both intermittent noise and discrete tones can cause an environmental noise nuisance.

Acoustical treatment can be installed in plantrooms

Credit: Wakefield Acoustics

Noise attenuation

Both exhaust noise and ambient noise from the prime mover must be taken into consideration. For exhaust noise from diesel and gas engines, a silencer in the ductwork or chimney is often fundamental to meet local environmental requirements.

Exhaust silencer design for prime mover exhausts must take into account the sound level characteristics as noise emissions are typically higher in amplitude at low frequency. These exhaust silencers must give due consideration to the system requirements, without creating an excessive pressure drop as this can affect the prime mover's performance and efficiency. Also, material selection may have to be taken into consideration to survive the extreme temperature and environmental conditions.

An acoustic enclosure can also be installed around the CHP prime mover or electrical generator to reduce ambient noise levels and, in some cases, the whole plant is installed in an acoustic housing that has been specifically designed to attenuate noise.

These acoustic enclosure designs must not only take into consideration the inherent noise of equipment, but also the logistical and spatial limitations in terms of access to, from and around the power plant. Hence the correct design and selection of acoustic housings for CHP machinery is essential.

Equally fundamental to the acoustic design of enclosures is the requirement for regular maintenance. With this in mind, acoustic enclosures are manufactured with numerous access doors and can be designed as demountable or with large removable access panels where required.

As the construction of an enclosure is typically of a structural frame design, enclosures can be designed to include, for maintenance, beam loads within the structure, and to take account of roof loadings where required. Furthermore, enclosures would normally also incorporate a fan-assisted ventilation system to provide cooling airflow and prevent overheating of the equipment. Where required, hazardous area (ATEX) fans would be fitted.

Often, CHP plants and their prime movers are placed into older plantrooms, meaning the use of an enclosure is not always viable due to space constraints. In cases such as these, a greater level of acoustical consideration must be undertaken as these plantrooms are generally constructed using blockwork or concrete.

The materials used within these buildings often lead to high reverberation levels that only exacerbate the situation. To alleviate this, operators can install acoustical treatment or lining within the plantroom walls, greatly reducing noise output by controlling the reverberant noise level within the plantroom.

Dependent upon the scale of the plant, enclosures can be provided as drop-over or as flat-packed, so that installation can be conducted on-site. Selection is often driven by either road constraints for delivery or whether there is the headroom and crane height available for a drop-over enclosure to be installed. Enclosures can be supplied weatherproofed for continuous external use, whether these are drop-over or flat-packed.

For smaller installations, a range of bespoke and standard acoustic enclosures can be designed and manufactured to be skid mounted. These enclosures reduce the ambient noise emissions from CHP units to 70 dB(A) and 65 dB(A) typically, but can be adapted to suit the most onerous noise specification rules.

Ventilation requirements should also be given careful consideration, especially when plantrooms are located within building basements. In such cases, large ducting necessities can be extremely restrictive and can constrain the size of the CHP plant. This ducting design will place a pressure drop onto the system, leading to challenges for the forced ventilation system and an increase in associated noise levels. These noise levels can increase significantly if care is not taken during the design.

Ventilation noise must be taken into consideration during the design of any CHP scheme. Key to this is the specification of purpose-designed attenuators, which are fitted into the ventilation system. These attenuators can achieve a substantial reduction of noise from both fans and the CHP plant itself, but installation of such measures can pose a substantial challenge.

Meeting the demand

With a growing demand for energy-saving CHP technology across many sectors, increasingly stringent noise at work and environmental noise legislation, paired with a public less willing to accept environmental noise from industrial facilities, the cost-effective implementation of noise control solutions is becoming a necessity for companies looking to significantly reduce their noise output.Improved health and safety also remains at the forefront of the cogeneration sector, meaning noise reduction has become a major factor to address for plant operators.

The requirement for CHP to adopt noise control solutions beyond conventional personal protective equipment (PPE) has never been more critical. Add to the mix legislation which places an added emphasis on reducing environmental noise, and that requirement becomes even more apparent. Noise therefore needs to be addressed through the design and development of CHP schemes.

Robert Lomax is sales director of Wakefield Acoustics, one of the UK's leading manufacturers of advanced industrial and environmental noise control systems.

‘Europe is everything for us’

December 21st, 2016

Cable company Nexans tells Kelvin Ross why it's bullish on the European offshore wind market and highlights its key projects

The Hywind floating offshore wind farm

Credit: Statoil

Submarine cable company Nexans is bullish about the long-term potential of the European offshore wind sector.

The company estimates it has up to a 25 per cent share of the 27 GW of capacity it says is currently under construction in European waters.

Morten Langnes, Nexans' submarine high voltage cable sales manager, says: "Europe is our biggest market - in terms of offshore wind, it's everything for us."

He adds that the sector is "booming" and stresses that "as long as it's like this, there's no point in trying to go anywhere else".

"Momentum in the European market is still strong - and we see it staying very strong for another 10 years at least."

Nexans - which installed its first submarine cable in 1949 - is involved in various types of offshore wind projects in Europe, from the very large to small-scale experimental.

This year it won a €245 million ($261 million) contract along with Siemens Transmission and Distribution to connect the 588 MW Beatrice windfarm, which is off the coast of Scotland and will comprise 87 turbines.

The Skagerrak cable-laying vessel

Credit: Nexans

Nexans will manufacture and deliver two circuits of 90 km, with a total of 260 km of onshore and offshore cables, and these offshore cables will be laid by Nexans' unique cable-laying ship, the Nexans Skagerrak.

The Skagerrak was built in 1976 and has been in almost constant use ever since. To illustrate just how much it is purpose-built, Nexans had to cut off one metre from the ship to ensure it could fit through the Panama Canal to fulfil a contract in 1982. "It shows what we are capable of and what we are prepared to do," says Langnes.

The Beatrice project will also see Nexans utilize its Capjet technology, an air-blasting trenching system for submarine cables, umbilicals and pipelines. Introduced in 1986, it has since buried 8000 km of cables and Langnes says: "This is our baby - it's designed in-house. It's a very friendly way of doing it in terms of the environment but also in terms of the cable."

Langnes explains that developing its own bespoke equipment such as Capjet and the Skagerrak vessel has allowed the company to reduce the time it takes to install submarine cables. Work on an offshore windfarm typically involves around 1750 km of cables and between 40 and 50 people.

"You plan for three years and you finish it in one week. You need to be prepared - you need to bring a spare part for everything."

Nexans' offshore wind work does not just include large-scale projects. It is working with Statoil on the energy giant's floating windfarm Hywind, also located in Scotland, 30 km off the coast of Aberdeenshire.

Following a demonstration project in Norway which started in 2009, Nexans is now involved in the 30 MW Scottish pilot project and will supply static and dynamic cabling.

The windfarm will comprise five wind turbine generators connected through an inter-array cable network before feeding into a single export cable carrying energy back to land in Peterhead.

Langnes says that, at the moment, installing floating wind turbines is "a bit more complicated than traditional offshore wind", however he sees a definite place in the market for the technology.

"You can be more flexible on where you put your wind farm for whatever reason - it could be environmental, it could be because the public doesn't want it on their beach. And the further you go offshore, then the winds are a bit more steady, so they generate more power and with a floating turbine the idea is to have larger turbines."

He acknowledges that floating turbines will make construction and maintenance more complicated, "which is why we're now building small-scale just to test it".

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