Simulation Software Optimizes Networks

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 @ 03:04 PM gHale

By 2020, thousands of kilometers of new grids will be operating in Germany which will allow even more extensive use of power from renewable sources. The catch is, though, these smart grids also come with increased complexity, costs, safety issues and security vulnerability.

However, there is new software that can analyze and optimize transport grids for electricity, gas and water even at the planning stage, based on numerical simulations, said researchers at Fraunhofer Institute. By doing that analysis, it could lighten the task of retrofitting and expansion for system operators, save energy and cost outlays and enhance safety and security.

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Almost every winter, news about reduced gas deliveries from Siberia to Europe makes the headlines. Regardless of the political reasons for a shortage, operating pipelines in severe winters is very challenging. One reason is if the gas in the pipes cools off too sharply, it partly liquefies and can no longer flow as swiftly. To maintain the temperature of the gases within a certain range consistently, pipeline operators need a complex system of compressors, pre-heaters, coolers and other elements. System operators constantly monitor the condition of their pipelines and plan ahead for reactions to potential temperature and pressure changes.

New simulation software, called MYNTS (Multiphysical Network Simulation Framework), helps with the operation and planning of such complex networks. The program ended up jointly developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Algorithms and Scientific Computing SCAI and the team under mathematics professor Dr. Caren Tischendorf of the University of Cologne.

The program models the transport grids as systems of differential-algebraic equations. Thus through numerical simulations, it is possible to flexibly analyze and better plan the grids. Specifically, the simulation immediately demonstrates the effects of changes in various factors. Using MYNTS, one can calculate how temperature fluctuations alter the flow measurements, or how the failure of subnetworks influences other grid components.

“Regardless of dealing with transport systems for gas, power, water or electrical circuits, their simulation always traces back to the same numerical core,” said department head Dr. Tanja Clees. Because each field of application also has its unique features, specialized versions of the software are available for various utilities. With MYNTS for simulation of gas transport systems, a user can set up and control his or her own subnetworks or add compressor stations and mixing chambers. In order to accelerate simulation computations, the software runs on computers with multiple processors.

This software is also of interest for smart grids, which the German government is promoting. Intelligent networking and controlling of electricity producers, storage facilities, electricity consumers and network resources within supply networks are among the greatest economic and environmental technology challenges.

If bulk consumers could gain control of when they need and utilize power the most, they could adjust the power to match demand at different times, then there could be a cap on consumption peaks, and the consumption of electric energy equalized. Such bulk consumers include water companies. One study shows in industrialized nations, water companies consume three percent of the total electrical power – specifically for pumps. Intelligent control of the network would have major economic potential. Even minor incremental savings make a major contribution that benefits the environment.

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