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Storage potential

Mark Goudie | 15 Jan 2016 | Comments

It is generally acknowledged that we are now almost half-way towards the 2C limit that represents the maximum temperature increase that the world can tolerate without ‘irreversible’ climate change.

Against this background, governments are setting energy policy to reduce carbon intensity in energy generation whilst reducing energy demand. However, this has to be done without impacting security of supply or creating unacceptable increases in cost to vulnerable members of society.

With this changing energy landscape, National Grid and several other companies have developed future scenarios to try and balance the energy trilemma of sustainability, affordability and security of supply. One pillar of UK energy production that impacts on the trilemma is the North Sea.

It is rich in resources – hydrocarbons, wind energy or tidal/wave potential – and there are a number of innovative ideas that are looking at how best to harness this energy. For the UK to achieve its decarbonisation targets, a significant level of electricity generated from offshore wind will be required and is represented in most future electricity generation scenarios.

Whilst benefiting from increased capacity factors (the amount of electricity it actually generates) in comparison to onshore wind, like other renewable technologies the power produced from offshore wind is variable and can present a balancing challenge for the system operator. Wide deployment of energy storage technologies could provide a solution, and existing North Sea infrastructure could provide that storage capacity.

WERS (Wind Energy Reservoir Storage) was a concept that won the UK STEM Awards 2015 Energy Category and aims to utilise existing and aging offshore production platforms and their associated spent reservoirs (partially or fully) as a high pressure water store. Existing oil and gas infrastructure and subsea wells use water injection to improve hydrocarbon production and maintain the integrity of the wells. The reservoir would be pressurised using existing water injection pumps powered using offshore wind turbines when demand is low. When demand is high and/or when the wind farm is not generating, the accumulated well pressure would drive turbine generator sets on the platforms, using the wind farms existing electrical connections to the mainland to export the electricity to the national grid.

Over the next year, the WERS concept will be developed technically and economically, using Atkins' existing relationships with both the renewables and oil & gas sectors. As momentum builds for domestic/distributed energy storage, WERS will offer a centralised, large scale solution to meet our future energy demand.

This development will take place in our new Future Energies team. Future Energies is all about how we respond to energy challenges within the Power sector. How we obtain, distribute and use our energy in the future will be very different from what we do now. Generation will become more decentralised and heat and electricity will become far more closely linked. The use of fossil fuels will diminish and the use of renewable technologies will increase. The technologies we utilise will become smarter and more integrated. Our focus will be on establishing Atkins as a leading player in this changing world.