A Black & Veatch-designed microgrid at Shell’s Technology Center in Houston is powering part of the campus while serving as a critical research tool for Shell International Exploration & Production Co. Inc.’s work to explore the next generation of clean power and distributed energy technologies.
The microgrid, which incorporates solar photovoltaic panels, a natural gas reciprocating engine and an advanced battery storage system, was installed earlier this year and provides clean, resilient energy for a facility on the 200-acre Shell Technology Center Houston (STCH) campus. Home to nearly 2,000 Shell scientists, technologists and engineers, the STCH is the largest of the three Shell technology hubs; the others are in Amsterdam and Bangalore.
Microgrids are integrated systems of multiple power generation sources and electric loads. When operated under a consolidated control with a sustainable energy management system, microgrid systems can produce and distribute electricity and operate independently from the larger power grid, increasing resilience and reliability.
“By serving as a platform for hands-on research, the microgrid allows Shell to analyze different scenarios in renewable energy systems integration, providing an elevated level of technology assurance and insight,” said Dustin Rogge, Black & Veatch’s project manager. “By enabling the testing, demonstration and development of sustainable power solutions, the microgrid allows Shell to better understand complex distributed energy integration challenges. With this knowledge, Shell can accelerate its development and move solutions quickly to market.”
Jon La Follett, energy system integration and storage program lead in Shell’s New Energies Research and Technology Department, added, “This project is an important step in Shell’s efforts to explore and develop new energy technologies as we work towards our goal to power progress together by providing more and cleaner energy solutions.
“Our New Energies business is working diligently to develop game-changing energy solutions, not just in urban areas like Houston, but in rural and remote areas around the world, from Asia to Africa,” La Follett said.
Paired with the ASSET360 cloud-based data analytics platform, which is available through Black & Veatch’s software subsidiary Atonix Digital, the microgrid raises STCH’s resilience and reliability by providing critical services during a power outage or other service anomaly. Designed to provide actionable insights about the microgrid’s performance, ASSET360 allows Shell operators to optimize operation based on energy demand, solar production and other conditions.
“The microgrid is already generating value for STCH by providing resilient, renewable power for part of our campus,” La Follett said. “And by exporting power to the local grid, we are generating economic benefit.”
“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,” La Follett added. “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.”
The system combines 300 kilowatts (kW) of ground-mounted solar, a 127-kW natural gas generator, a 250-kW, 1,050-megawatt-hour (MWh) lithium ion battery and a 250-kW load bank. In early 2019, the microgrid will be expanded to include additional Battery Energy Storage System technologies and electric vehicle chargers.