Joint-industry research project studies global energy transmission strategies

HOUSTON, Sept. 23, 2002 — Several technologies are emerging that promise to change the economics of the delivery infrastructure of gas-fired power generation. Traditionally, gas producers have piped compressed natural gas or shipped liquefied gas (LNG) from distant reserves to generation plants nearer markets.

The transmission of alternating current (AC) is less economical than pipelines or LNG over long distances, so producers have traditionally moved the gas instead.

This may change in the future, however, if one or more new technologies — high-voltage direct current (HVDC), fuel cells and compact offshore combined-cycle gas generation — become economically competitive.

HVDC is the most advanced of these technologies. A growing network of long-distance HVDC transmission systems transmit power from remote plants — sometimes more than 1,500 kilometers from their market — to distribution grids in highly populated areas. Line losses from HVDC are much lower than losses from AC transmission.

The drawback is that conversion facilities must be built to convert current from AC power to HVDC and then back again when it reaches the distribution grid. Leaders in this technology include ABB, Seimens and Hitachi.

Gas-fired fuel cells have the advantage of producing direct current, so conversion from AC at the power plant is not an issue. Fuel cells are highly efficient and can use low-pressure natural gas. For this reason, power generation may remain viable in fields where pressure has declined beyond economic levels. Shell and Aker Engineering are reported to be investigating the use of fuel cells for the North Sea.

Meanwhile, Alstom Power has developed a compact combined-cycle gas turbine for the offshore environment. These systems are more efficient than simple-cycle systems. The company has partnered with Norsk Hydro to place three commercial units in the North Sea.

To investigate these technologies and their ramifications for traditional forms of gas transport, Zeus Development Corporation is organizing a joint-industry research project.

The company will host a meeting in Houston, November 7th and 8th, for long-distance transmission proponents to meet and discuss the potential of their technologies with gas producers.

For more information, contact Mark Voss, Zeus Development Corporation, 832-200-3701 or via email, mvoss@zeusdevelopment.com .

Source: Zeus Development Corporation

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