Print

Number 2 (May 2012)

New brothers and sisters: the innovation contracts

During the last half year, the Dutch government has started a breathtaking process to set up innovation contracts. These aim at steering innovation in strong economic sectors, where a mix of public and private resources can leverage a higher level of competitiveness. The government’s underlying philosophy is straightforward: ‘one should force private industry and knowledge players to join forces in contracts, and make public support contingent upon such contracts.’ Whit this philosophy in mind, the government has arranged contracts in nine promising economic sectors. Energy is one of them. Together with wind, solar, smart grids etc., the energy innovation contract has clearly gas on its agenda.

Let’s zoom into the details of the gas contract that emerged out of this hectic process — I know by and large about it, because I was involved in the leading team. I can fairly say that via this contract EDGaR got brothers and sisters. Several new cooperative research projects on gas will start up in the coming months. The 2012 yearly budget for the gas innovation contract is a supersized format: the government put down approximately €25 million, while private companies are expected to bring in €15 million. This is €40 million or four times EDGaR’s yearly budget! The government still has to make budgetary appropriations for the period 2013–15.

The gas contract focuses much more on ‘doing things,’ such as demonstration project, pilot experiments, market introduction of new appliances, etc., than long term research projects financed by EDGaR. But this makes a perfect coupling! The gas contract will subsidize upstream technology application, the introduction of small-scale light natural gas applications, the demonstration of biomass gasification processes, the conversion of wind power into gas via electrolysis and so on and so forth. Meanwhile, EDGaR will continue to research the underlying fundamental issues, such as gas quality, the integration of energy systems and the internationalization of gas markets. Both programs will be complementing each other in focus and in content!

It stands to reason that participants of both the gas contact and EDGaR work together, that EDGaR cluster with its new brothers and sisters in one strong governance system that steer and guarantee this collaboration. By so doing, the Netherlands will have given rise to one of world’s preeminent research and innovation infrastructure on gas. Besides, there is no other option than joining our forces. After all, brothers and sisters, that’s family matters!

Prof. Dr. Catrinus Jepma, Scientific Director EDGaR

Fourth Research Day

The Fourth Research Day, held at Hilversum on 19 April, has revealed some challenges pertaining to gas quality, the future of the gas industry and to the coordination with electricity systems. A key-note speech has been made by Jürgen Lenz, vice-president gas of the Deutscher Verein des Gas- und Wasserfaches. He discussed some innovations pertaining to the gas infrastructure by taking the case of Germany. ‘Gas will play a major role for the overall energy supply system’ was one of his conclusions. A session has been devoted to the future of gas quality, from the viewpoint of the natural and engineering sciences. Participants discussed measurement technologies, the impact on materials and a new methodology to classify gaseous fuels for knock resistance. The second workshop was also on the future of gas, but this time it was with an interactive format, by considering the impacts of unlikely but high-impact events on the future gas system. (This event has a sequel. Read below 'Edgar@GasNext50Years'.) The last workshop was on the coupling of gas and electricity systems and their mutual interactions. A popular session showcased six posters that reported the results of original researches. More than 70 participants gathered to this annual conference. (Presentations can be downloaded from the EDGaR’s website).

Back to the Future of Gas

EDGaR organizes an international conference Back to the Future of Gas, in Groningen on 19-21 November 2011. It will take place during the Energy Delta Convention 2012, a long-standing high-level conference with a unique interdisciplinary content for senior business, science and government experts. Will gas still be an important energy source by 2050? This question is paramount in order to prepare the energy transition towards the use of renewable and sustainable energy. One of the salient assumptions of this conference is that gas can facilitate, for the decades to come, the transition towards the use of renewables and sustainable energies. This conference will call on the perspectives of engineering, natural and social sciences. Speakers will also address the theme from the viewpoint of the government and the industry. At the present time, the Program Committee envisions four sessions that will examines the supply side of gas, the end-user side, the technological development and institutional arrangements, and the most advanced techniques to foresee the future such as scenario analysis. (Further information about the program will be posted on EDGaR’s website.)

A First Working Paper

Scenarios analysis remains one of the most useful methods to foresee the future. It has been applied by Taede Weidenaar, Errit Bekkering and Rosemarie van Eekelen in the first working paper published by EDGaR. In Scenarios for the Dutch gas distribution infrastructure by 2050, they start with a basic fact: 98 percent of the household in the Netherlands are connected to the gas grid. Moreover, they underscore the fact this most of this gas grid, which has been partly laid down half a century ago, is aging and will not meet most of the forthcoming requirements pertaining to gas quality. At the center of their concerns lies the problem of the Dutch gas distribution companies: where to invest in the infrastructure for the coming decades? This question matters given the fact that infrastructure investments are sunk costs and the financial resources limited. In addition, this takes place in a context where policies converge towards the reduction of polluting carbon dioxide emissions and towards the use of further renewable sources of energy. On the top of this plays the perceived scarcity of energy resources. What may happen in the future is described in four scenarios, each exploring the consequences of various possibilities. The scenarios are business as usual, carbon constraints, tight market and renewable self-sufficiency scenario. In all these scenarios the authors found that gas will continue to be an important source in the energy portfolio of the Netherlands.

New Gas Sensors Get Additional Grant from STW

The EDGaR research project New Gas Sensors, which started in July 2011, will be extended. The research team of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Delft University of Technology, has received a grant from the Technologiestichting STW. Started in April 2012, the goal of this project is to realize a low-cost sensor platform for the detection of the main combustible components. Two doctoral students will work four years on sensing principles in integrated circuit technology that measure biogas and natural gas. Partners from EDGaR — ECN and DNV KEMA — have been joined by new industrial partners — Ford, Sensata Technlogies and Siemens — companies with a long-standing experience in de manufacturing of sensors. (For more information, contact Dr. Ger de Graaf.)

Edgar@GasNext50Years

During the Fourth Research Day an interactive workshop has been held on the possible future developments of the gas industry. Participants addressed statements written on wildcards and identified their possible impacts on the Dutch industry. There is a sequel of this workshop in Twitter at Edgar@GasNext50Years. If you are working in the Dutch gas industry, you are invited to read the statements posted there and to react about the possible consequences they might have. You can also forward the Twitter account so that you colleague can post their reactions. This interactive activity is an initiative of the team of the research project The Next Fifty Years. (Explanations in in Dutch.)

Prizes, awards and nominations

Inaugural adress. Dr. Linda Steg has been promoted as professor at the University of Groningen. She delivered her inaugural adress on 'De mens als sleutel tot duurzaamheid.' She explained how behaviour matters for consumption and which aspects of behaviour matter.

About people

A new research leader. Stéphane Walspurger, project coordinator on innovative technologies for carbon dioxide and acid gas removal in power plants at ECN, has taken the lead of the project Synthetic Methane

New gas injection systems. Austin D’Szouza, a doctoral candidate, started to work at the Hanze Hogheschool Groningen in December 2011. He contributes to the research project Effects of decentralized new-gas injection.

Two masters on gas sensors. Two students have earned a master degree at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Delft University of Technology, as part of the research project New Gas Sensors. Sebastiaan Voorderhake presented his thesis on ‘Micro spectrometer for the measurement of the composition of new gas.’ He reports the results of his research on linear variable optical filters for gas detection.

Frank Gorte presented a thesis on ‘Acoustic design and scaling aspects of a photoacoustic sensor system for combustible gases.’ He describes his work on the down-scaling of photoacoustic sensor systems. (For more information, contact Dr. Ger de Graaf.)

Green gas injection. Adriana Diaz Arias, from Delft University of Technology, has joined the project Flexible asset management for the transition to multigas network. She will focus on green gas injection to the gas network from an institutional analysis point of view.

Language processing algorithms. Dr. Ashwin Ittoo, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Groningen, contributes to the project Mapping the contextual conditions or resilient decentralized energy systems. He develops an augmented serious gaming platform, which incorporates natural language processing algorithms. His aims is to discover stakeholders behavioral patterns that can be used to support future energy investment decisions.

Price mechanisms. Desti Alkano, doctoral candidate at the University of Groningen, has started her research project. She will investigate distributed dynamic price mechanisms in the new gas chain. This project is part of the project Innovative smart grid solution for the new gas value chain.