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Energy in action

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Oilfield Technology,

The security of global energy supplies is problematic in terms of geography, politics, economics and the environment. Additionally energy is wasted in all areas of commercial, and private life. Making energy more efficiently and wasting less of it is of paramount importance to humanity's well being. Also many governments are looking for independence from foreign energy supplies while attempting to comply with the Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions. The race for secure energy supplies is on; and it must be won.

In the past energy transitions have always moved towards a higher density of energy: from animal power to coal in the 19th century, then to oil by 1910, followed by the large scale growth of electricity and the introduction of nuclear power throughout the 20th century. Currently some energy transitions are of a lower resource density such as renewable, implying a greater cost of production. Even oil can be considered decreasingly dense in energy because it requires increasing amounts energy to produce it. In the extreme case of corn-based biofuel as much as 90% of the produced resource, in terms of energy, is spent in its production.

Fossil fuels however still dominate energy supply and it is expected that in the coming decades they will still represent 75% of global energy usage down from their current 80%. This is because fossil fuel remains the easiest resource to provide. The global population is heading towards 9 billion and needs evermore goods and services and the energy to provide them. Currently each person in the world produces an average of 5 t of carbon emissions every year. Meanwhile in some countries children resort to reading their schoolbooks at night using streetlights because they have no power at home.

Technology is racing to produce more from less, cut costs and waste and find new ways to produce and consume energy more efficiently. My company works with innovators in all industries across the world in every area of generation and consumption to bring solutions to fruition.

The Need for Speed

In every country companies and planners need to innovate faster to meet or beat the inevitable growth in energy demand and to balance that against carbon emissions. Around a 10% rise of energy need is expected per decade and it is commonly agreed that it can only be supplied by increasing efficiency of both production and consumption. Dassault Systémes works with many energy companies and organisations helping them visualise and then produce their ideas. Whether it is optimising planning for a whole city's usage, creating a product with less energy and that uses less energy, or building and operating a nuclear power plant, a carbon capture scheme, a mine or an oil rig they can be modelled, visualised and simulated in 3D. This allows all stakeholders and interest groups to better understand the often-complex concepts and their implications. With this highly visual information they can then formulate better decisions around the available options.

Because of a hiatus in their construction nuclear fission plants have lost a generation of technical expertise and the nuclear industry currently struggles to hire skilled personnel. The information about existing and planned reactors is being brought together so that it is accessible to engineers, planners, designers, politicians, economists, supply chain partners and the public. Deploying the Dassault Systèmes 3DEXPERIENCE Platform allows the past to be better understood knowledge capitalised and the future to become more predicable through the 3D simulations that the technology provides. Safety and training requirements can also be better designed and experienced virtually in 3D. Efficiencies are more easily implemented and managed using the integrated design and simulation capabilities that the technology provides.

Smart Products

Innovation in products and the way that are made has the potential to save energy. 3D simulation technology also develops transport systems that use less energy. Currently best car performance is around 4.1 litres of petrol per 100 km. Manufacturers are working towards halving that figure helped with simulations that cover the entire vehicle lifecycle and optimise every possible aspect of its manufacture, use, operation and eventual disposal. Integrated products such as smart phones can save energy and help society achieve 'consumer sobriety' - where people change what they do by buying and using smart devices instead several products (camera, TV, computer, HIFI…).

Energy savings are possible in product manufacturing, by making processes more efficient and using materials that require less energy to produce. The computation of 'big data' enables key production parameters to be identified and improved. This requires the development of intelligence in machines brought about through connecting factory equipment or groups of plant with sensors, as an industry 4.0 scenario. In parallel all human participants use a single data platform to share manufacturing, logistics and product information. A complete behavioural 3D virtual experience of the enterprise coupled with greater manufacturing competence emerges - with less energy consumed per product made.

New Energy

Bill Gate's TerraPower project to reuse spent nuclear fuel; Germany's Fraunhofer institute's hydrogen storage concepts and plans to produce methane from hydrogen on a large scale are innovations that are taking place to change the way energy is made. The forecasted world shortage of uranium will require the new 'generation IV' nuclear power plants that can produce 60% more energy than a traditional system. Advances are also being made in reducing the 7% of energy that is currently lost in transmission. In some countries up to 50% of energy is stolen form the grid. My company is working on myriad projects that produce gains in energy output or saving through 3D, systems modelling and simulation.

The Heart of the Sun

The development of fusion power generation technology is one of mankind’s biggest energy engineering challenges in the coming centuries of fossil fuels depletion. Leading scientists, engineers and planners are working towards the solution at the €13 billion ITER in France where they will create temperatures greater than that of the sun (around 100 million degrees C) by applying a magnetic confinement so that controlled fusion of atomic nuclei takes place. This will produce huge amounts of energy and no radioactive waste or carbon emissions. Since the start of project their work has been significantly aided by the availability of 3D model based simulation technology. Development at ITER is a trial generating station aiming to run continuously for at least 5 minutes by 2040. This achievement would validate the technology to master the process and so enable full-scale continuous energy generation supplying fusion energy to the grid by the end of this century.

Collaboration on what is effectively the world's biggest energy experiment is key to innovation at ITER. With each participating country having development teams and equipment suppliers in their territories, a single source of design and operation information is crucial to optimally progress the project.

Re-imagining the Domestic Boiler

According to the International Energy Agency, more efficient production and use of energy in buildings would be the single largest and most cost-effective contributor to reductions in CO2 emissions. Since buildings use 40% of the world's primary energy the incentive for more efficiency is strong.

A trend towards “energy positive houses” targets producing more energy than they use by, coupling high insulation with more energy generation than consumption. 3D simulations are already helping reduce gas consumption in domestic boilers. The adoption of Combined Heat and Power (CHP), which utilises thermal energy that is normally wasted as exhaust, significantly improves energy efficiency. UK based Ceres Power’s unique fuel cell, located at the heart of a generation and exchange system, is an electrochemical engine that makes heat and electricity in houses. A combination of the materials used to make the fuel cell components; the type of fuel used and the operating temperature, allow electricity to be generated directly, via a chemical reaction, rather than burning the fuel. Simulating the fuel cell using 3DEXPERIENCE simulation technologies takes out any guesswork by predicting how physical products will operate - before they are made. This means that every physical prototype has predictable performance. With this technology Ceres Power is developing and perfecting a highly efficient, price competitive, advanced fuel cell based CHP system that will be making a strong contribution towards lowering our carbon footprint into the future.

Deep Ocean to Sky High Savings

My company also works with many coal and oil companies to model and optimise by simulation both their equipment, to improve operational efficiency, and their reserves to maximise extraction. One major company is seeing initial oil processing take place at 4000m below the sea to save the expense and engineering waste of bringing material other than oil to the surface. Coal and other mineral mines are digitally modelled with great accuracy in 3D using GEOVIA to achieve extraction at the lowest possible cost. And in the renewables sector, wave, wind and PV systems are being optimised and refined to help them operate at maximum efficiency.

Using multiphysics behavioural 3D in a collaborative manner from engineers to consumers is helping people understand their products and how they fit into nature and life. This accelerates innovation by allowing people to share their knowledge and experience so they can build up a broad but detailed picture that presents the best routes to a viable energy future for mankind.

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By Stephen Chadwick, Managing Director EuroNorth, Dassault Systèmes

Edited from source by Joe Green

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