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Optimising the energy value chain

ABB produces automation and power technology products, systems, and services for utilities and industry worldwide, and offers solutions for raising efficiency all the way from the wellhead to the home or office. Industry benefits from higher efficiency thanks to optimised power management systems and automation equipment, lower transmission losses, and more efficient propulsion.

Energy is the lifeblood of today’s economy. From the extraction of raw materials, through manufacturing and transport to final usage, society relies on extensive energy usage. As the world’s thirst for energy continues to grow, new and more innovative solutions will be needed to meet growing demand. Increasing energy efficiency will be critical, and many of ABB’s core products and technologies in the automation and power fields are already leading the way in saving energy and helping the battle against climate change.

Energy can be saved at every stage of the energy value chain: in primary energy solutions, energy conversion, power transmission, as well as in the distribution and use of electricity.

In oil drilling, for example, annual production volumes can be increased by up to 30% through the use of advanced process automation capable of producing more with less energy input. When transporting oil and gas along pipelines or aboard tankers, energy can be saved by using better pumps and control systems and by reducing fuel consumption thanks to Azipod® propulsion. In power generation, considerable energy savings can be achieved by controlling the power-up of boilers more effectively.

ABB’s HVDC (High-Voltage DC) and FACTS (Flexible AC Transmission Systems), for their part, offer excellent opportunities for reducing the losses associated with the transmission and distribution of electrical energy. HVDC technology, for long-distance power transmission lines, and HVDC Light technology, for shorter distances, reduce line losses considerably.

FACTS technologies provide a fast and effective way of increasing the capacity of electrical grids by resolving voltage and stability issues and allowing transmission systems to run more efficiently, enabling more power to reach consumers with less impact on the environment and at a fraction of the cost of building new transmission lines or power plants.

The world’s growing thirst for energy has encouraged industry to invest in energy-efficient solutions. ABB’s high-efficiency motors and variable-speed drives can reduce energy consumption by up to 70%.

Better drives

It is estimated that motors use 65% of the electricity consumed by industry, and that generating the electricity to drive these motors produces 37 million tonnes of CO2 annually. High-efficiency ABB motors can deliver significant savings in energy consumption, and the company’s variable-speed drives can reduce the energy consumption of motors by up to 70% in many cases. ABB has delivered around one million variable-speed drives to date, bringing savings equal to twice the annual energy consumption of Finnish industry.

Better energy management

ABB also has extensive experience in developing and supplying energy management systems for process industries, such as paper- and steelmaking. Similar technologies and solutions have also been supplied to customers in the metals and minerals sectors, chemicals and petrochemicals, and others that consume large quantities of energy.

The latest products in the range of Azipod® electric propulsion systems offer the most energy-efficient electric propulsion on the market today.

An ABB energy management system can typically shave up to 5% off total energy expenditure. Based on the Process Data Management platform, ABB’s Energy Management and Optimization (EMO) Solution uses a mix of historical, real-time, and forecasted data.

Modules help customers forecast their future electricity, steam, and fuel consumption, maximise efficiency through effective load scheduling, and optimise the proportion of energy generated in-house or purchased from outside suppliers. As part of the latter, EMO tools are available to manage electricity purchase and sales transactions and avoid peak tariffs. Simulation and ‘what-if’ analysis capabilities are also included to provide decision-making assistance.

Fuel-efficient Azipod® propulsion

Originally introduced in 1990, ABB’s Azipod® is the market leader in podded propulsion technology and powers a wide range of ships today, including luxury cruise vessels, ferries, drilling rigs, arctic tankers, offshore supply vessels, and icebreakers. The latest products in the range are the most energy-efficient electric propulsion systems anywhere.

With over three million cumulative operating hours under its belt, the Azipod® propulsion concept has leveraged numerous improvements in ship design and operation.

Azipod® units are fixed outside the hull in a pod that combines the functions of a propulsion motor, main propeller, rudder, and stern thruster, all of which can be eliminated, freeing up space on board for other purposes. Fitted to cruise ships, Azipod systems have been shown to reduce fuel consumption by around 10% compared to diesel-electric propulsion systems employing a conventional shaft-line arrangement.

The CRP (contra-rotating propeller) Azipod® has developed the concept further, by using two propellers facing each other and rotating in opposite directions. Fitted in the place of the rudder in a conventional shaft-line arrangement, CRP Azipods are ideal for fast ferries and other ships that need very large propulsion power, and have been able to offer fuel savings in the order of 20%, and provide more transportation capacity compared to similar-sized ships powered by conventional diesel engines.

> Carita Jern
(Published in HighTech Finland 2009)