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Microgrid aims to help oil major Shell accelerate distributed energy solutions

Part of the microgrid’s ground-mount solar PV array at Shell Technology Center in Houston (STCH). Image: Businesswire.

Infrastructure development and engineering company Black & Veatch has just completed a microgrid project in the US for Shell which is set to help inform the oil and gas company on its next steps into distributed energy.

Deployed at Shell’s Technology Center in Houston, Texas, the project will be used by Shell Exploration & Production Company as a “critical research tool,” while also being used to power the Technology Center campus. The centre plays host to around 2,000 employees, including scientists, consultants and engineers. Black & Veatch was awarded the collaborative research-based project in July 2017.

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According to Shell’s corporate website, the company only expects around 30% of the world’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2050, with non-renewable forms of energy making up the other 70%. Nonetheless, the microgrid is intended to help inform Shell on how distributed and clean energy resources and technologies can be progressed.

It comprises a 300kW ground-mounted solar array, 127kW of natural gas generation, a 250kW load bank and a 250kW / 1,050 kWh lithium-ion battery energy storage system. It earns money by exporting power to the local grid as well as improving the resilience of power supplies to the Shell Technology Center itself.     

Black & Veatch subsidiary Atonix Digital supplied ASSET360, its proprietary cloud-based data analytics platform. The microgrid should be able to continue providing critical services during power outages and other events affecting electricity coming from the grid. Shell’s team operating the system will be able to use energy demand, solar production and other data metrics to optimise the grid via the ASSET360 platform.

The microgrid is already generating value for STCH by providing resilient, renewable power for part of our campus. And by exporting power to the local grid, we are generating economic benefit,” Jon La Follett of Shell’s New Energies Research and Technology Department said.

“But more importantly, this environment gives us the opportunity to test different ideas and strategies as we work to understand the operational envelope of these different components. One of the things that makes this microgrid unique is the diversity of the components that are involved. We wanted the flexibility to test numerous combinations of distributed energy resources,” La Follet, who is programme lead for storage and energy system integration, added.

“By flexing the system, Shell can see how the equipment would perform in different scenarios, and this helps them understand how they might best deploy renewable energy and deliver seamless power to consumers,” Black & Veatch’s microgrid solutions manager Dustin Rogge said in a post on the company’s corporate blog.

Black & Veatch has also built a microgrid for its own headquarters, commissioned in 2015 and combining 50kW of rooftop PV with 100kW of lithium batteries, 130kW of gas turbines and a geothermal well. The company plans to collaborate with Shell in sharing the data from both company’s microgrids as well as serving as a demonstration of the capabilities of such systems. Both projects run on the ASSETT360 platform, which Black & Veatch said will make it simple to make comparisons between them as they operate.

Last week it was reported that Shell's New Energies division is partnering with UK project developer Anesco to deploy a 1.25MW/1.25MWh lithium battery system at Bacton, a gas terminal, one of the oil and gas company’s most significant energy facilities in the UK.

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