CERAWeek is an annual international conference that brings together energy industry leaders, policymakers, experts, and thought leaders to discuss and share insights on the current state and future of the energy sector. The conference has been held annually since 1983 and is considered one of the premier energy conferences in the world. It attracts thousands of attendees from around the globe, including CEOs, government officials and investors.
This year, Akselos was again proud to participate in the conference, which was held against the backdrop of an unprecedented global energy crisis. The ongoing war in Ukraine has created serious energy security issues in Europe, which was previously heavily reliant on Russian gas. Moreover, we are facing a cost of living crisis with soaring energy prices while we continue the transition to net zero emissions by 2050.
Simulating Our Way Through the Energy Transition
At CERAWeek 2023, Akselos CEO Thomas Leurent contributed to the Agora program, which focuses on emerging and disruptive technologies in the energy space. His presentation focused on three key bottlenecks we must navigate to overcome the energy crisis and how simulation software can help alleviate them.
Bottleneck 1: Security and Affordability
The first bottleneck we face is a security and affordability bottleneck, where threats to energy security have caused a recent spike in energy prices.
This combination is especially felt in Europe, which imported 155 billion cubic metres of natural gas from Russia, almost 40% of its total gas consumption. However, since it invaded Ukraine in early 2022, Russia has significantly cut its natural gas exports to Europe and indefinitely shut down the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in September last year, putting the continent’s energy security at risk and causing energy prices to rise significantly due to shortages in gas.
As a result, Europe is trying to wean itself off Russian natural gas in the short term by importing more liquified natural gas from elsewhere in the world and accelerating the transition to renewables in the long term. However, the continent faces a significant issue – while there is enough LNG on the market, regasification terminals in Europe can only regasify around half of the natural gas the continent needs.
Simulation software can help increase the operational efficiency of regasification terminals to convert more LNG into natural gas quickly, thus safeguarding energy security and easing affordability concerns. For example, we are using our digital twin technology to build a digital twin of Open Rack Vaporizers – critical components of a regasification terminal – for Adriatic LNG’s terminal in the Adriatic Sea. The Akselos digital twin enables a deeper understanding of the asset to improve operations and is independently verified by Bureau Veritas.
Looking past the European LNG market, we also see the vast potential of energy simulation software to extend the lifespan of critical oil & gas assets, which are still essential for the energy transition. For example, Akselos helped find a safe way to reduce a reactor’s start-up and shutdown time in a major North American refinery by just over 25%, resulting in additional plant uptime.
Bottleneck 2: Sustainability
While we face energy security and affordability challenges, the world is also in the midst of a transition to net-zero emissions by 2050. Globally, energy production accounts for about three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions, and, as such, a large part of the is moving away from high-emission energy sources to renewable sources such as offshore wind.
Thankfully, the transition is well underway. After decades of growth, offshore wind is now a low-cost, reliable technology that continues to be deployed globally at scale. However, there is much more that can be done.
Globally, most of the current installed wind capacity is bottom-fixed, even though deep water is standard around coastlines (for instance, in Europe, where 80% of all the offshore wind resource is located in waters 60m and deeper). At such depths, the most economically-viable renewable energy is floating offshore wind. Therefore, the technology has vast potential to deliver the capacity increase required to hit net-zero targets.
Currently, floating offshore wind makes up a small proportion of installed offshore wind energy capacity, primarily because the technology is too expensive to deploy at scale. And 25% of current project CapEX is from floaters, which are overly designed and unnecessarily heavy.
Therefore, the only way the cost of floating offshore wind can be reduced is by designing leaner, cheaper floating foundations – which cannot be done using the same legacy technology used to build fixed-bottom turbines. Moreover, operators must start sharing data to help everyone create better designs and grow the industry.
Last year, Akselos completed the DigiFloat project with Principle Power – the world’s first digital twin tailored to floating offshore wind applications. The project is helping the operator reduce the maintenance required and provide valuable, actionable data to reduce asset downtime, lowering the cost of the industry to drive adoption. Moreover, we are building two more floating offshore digital twins: the TetraSpar floating foundation demonstrator and the Hexicon twin turbine floating wind foundation.
Bottleneck 3: Supply Chains
Finally, scaling renewable energy to hit net zero targets requires vast amounts of raw materials. Wind turbines, for example, require many raw materials, including steel, iron, fibreglass, polymers, aluminium, copper, cobalt, zinc and rare earth elements (REEs).
Unfortunately, raw materials vital in building wind turbines are soaring in price. For example, steel cost has risen 180% compared to pre-pandemic levels, while global iron and copper prices rose by around 50% in 2021.
Since mines are the primary provider of the raw materials needed to drive the energy transition, and there is a ten to twenty-year period required to scale production, existing mines must run as efficiently and reliably as possible for operators to do more with what they have. Like with offshore wind, simulation software helps by helping design lighter, more efficient structures that cost less to produce and by improving the operations of mines to reduce costly downtime.
Conclusion: Hope for the Future
If CERAWeek demonstrated one thing, it is that there is hope for the future. Yes, we face multiple global environmental and economic crises, but abundant solutions are available to overcome them. For example, technology is there to simulate ourselves out of the energy crisis; all that is needed now is a large-scale push and commitment to help the world deploy it at scale.$
Cover photo courtesy of Kristen Panerali, World Economic Forum.