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Enel X deploying 40MWh behind-the-meter battery storage system at Imperial Oil refinery in Ontario

By Cameron Murray
Imperial Oil’s refinery at Sarnia where the battery storage is being built. Image: Enel X/Imperial Oil.

The energy transition arm of Italy’s Enel Group has started construction on a 20MW/40MWh behind-the-meter (BTM) battery energy storage system (BESS) at Imperial Oil’s petrochemical complex in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

Enel X will build, own and operate the BESS and use its Distributed Energy Resources (DER) Optimization software (DER.OS) to maximise the value of the project, including peak prediction services. The company has not revealed when it expects the system to be completed or go online.

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It says that Imperial will be able to charge the BESS at night when the electricity grid is mainly powered by wind, nuclear and hydro sources and draw on the battery during peak demand periods when the mix of natural gas production is generally higher.

Enel X’s Head of North America Surya Panditi and Ontario’s Minister of Energy Todd Smith both said it would be the largest behind-the-meter battery storage system in North America once complete.

“Large energy users are turning to battery storage to reduce their demand on the grid, lower their energy costs, improve sustainability, and deliver economic value to a company’s bottom line,” Panditi commented.

Demand response programme

Enel X will enrol the BESS onto Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator’s (IESO) demand response programme. The programme allows commercial & industrial (C&I) customers with high power needs to reduce peak demand charges as well as help the capacity needs of the grid.

One of IESO’s peak demand charges is the Global Adjustment (GA), which goes on all electricity consumers’ bills to cover generating and energy conservation programmes. Users with peak usage over 500kW can participate in the Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI). The ICI allows them to reduce their demand during peak periods of electricity consumption on the grid.

Enel X’s DER.OS will predict when those peak periods are and switch to energy stored in the battery instead of using the grid in those periods. IESO currently lists three providers as the initial suppliers of power for the demand response pilot: Tembec Industries, Enershift and HCE Energy. Enel X was the first provider to join a similar, new programme in Australia in October last year.

‘..the largest behind-the-meter battery storage in North America’

The claim that this project at Sarnia will be the largest behind-the-meter storage in North America may be disputed as a 240MWh system being built by technology infrastructure company Switch in Nevada, broke ground in July 2020. Albeit that project staked its claim to be part of the largest behind-the-meter solar project in the world, pairing batteries with 127MW of solar PV, rather than a standalone BESS project.

It is fair to say however that BTM systems in North America, particularly south of the border in the US, have tended to be smaller and in some ways Ontario is the leader in this space, given the opportunity it gives large users of power to reduce their costs via the Global Adjustment Charge.

The province has seen some other large BTM systems built for industrial customers, notably including a 10MW/20MW project by developer Convergent Energy + Power, using IHI Inc hardware supplied to an undisclosed customer, also in Sarnia and completed in 2018. The same developer also completed a 10MW BTM project at an oil refinery in Sarnia for Shell the following year and late last year announced the start of operations of a 5MW/10MWh project for glass manufacturer NSG Group, highlighting that the system could save the customer CA$450,000 (US$356,000) per megawatt on power costs during summer.

Others include an 8.9MW/18MWh project by technology company Honeywell, again for an unnamed customer, completed in 2019. Honeywell is also currently delivering battery storage for a 90MW/180MWh portfolio of Ontario behind-the-meter projects with developer Aypa Power (formerly NRStor), albeit this is distributed through a number of separate sites. Honeywell team members discussed that portfolio in a webinar series with last year.

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