Storengy, the European leader in underground natural gas storage, has set out to reduce energy costs across its industrial facilities in France: a sweeping project that Storengy has entrusted to Blu.e. The opportunity study conducted by the project team has already revealed potential savings of 250,000 euros. And that’s just the beginning!
Chemery and Saint-Illiers
On one hand, we have a huge underground natural gas storage facility with a capacity of 7 billion cubic metres at Chémery in the Loir-et-Cher: the equivalent of the city of Orléans’ gas consumption for 25 years. The energy required for natural gas injection and processing is the largest cost item.
On the other hand, there is Saint-Illiers-la-Ville in the Yvelines, a facility only a quarter of the size of the one in Chémery. It is a model of environmental friendliness: it uses new compression technologies that do not generate greenhouse gas emissions, a regeneration boiler and economisers installed on the drying towers(1).
“We selected these two pilot facilities because they are representative of our storage fleet as a whole, and have complementary challenges and operating procedures,” said Pierre Dudit, data manager in Storengy’s Business Unit. As part of an opportunity study in the first half of 2017, Éva Roussel, head of Storengy’s Industrial Operator, suggested installing a software platform to assist with industrial energy management. For industrial stakeholders, the idea raises as many questions as it does hopes.
IT and OT work so closely as to be complementary
“We had already met with data scientists, who generally have scant experience of industrial systems,” said Pierre Dudit. “That’s normal: IT and OT(2) lie at the intersection of two communities that still have little interaction each other. With Blu.e, we were dealing with a team that combined Big Data and processes. It was a decisive advantage that swayed our choice of solution.”
Blu.e draws together multidisciplinary skills that complement those of its customers. At Storengy facilities, there are already automation experts, process engineers, maintenance technicians and energy managers. Blu.e formed a team made up a solutions engineer, an energy engineer and a project manager. This organisation allows the Storengy operating staff to be at the centre of the initiative and define the operating points to be monitored, in agreement with Blu.e.
The results obtained spoke for themselves: a potential saving of 250,000 euros, estimated on the basis of the opportunity study. “The conclusions of the analysis of the first facilities not only helped identify the future savings,” said Pierre Dudit,“they also helped optimise our current operating practices.” On the strength of these findings, Storengy decided to go on with the project at the Chémery and Saint-Illiers-la-Ville facilities, and to equip all of the other Storengy facilities in 2018, in France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Two seasonal processes = two dashboards
The software platform for Chémery and Saint-Illiers-la-Ville is currently under construction. How do the facilities operate, in practice? “In summer, we inject the compressed natural gas into the ground,” said Pierre Dudit. “In winter, we deliver the gas to our customers after having first removed the sulphur and water, and added the characteristic gas smell for safety purposes.” The seasonal nature of the business has prompted Blu.e to create two dashboards, which will be automatically switched over at the end of each period. The first dashboard is for the gas injection phases; the second for the gas processing chain when it is being withdrawn. Having two separate interfaces is vitally important: operators can see the process at a glance and make an instant decision.
“We’re confident we can achieve a return on investment in under a year,” said Pierre Dudit. The on-site operators were thoroughly convinced by the team’s technical proficiency and are going to test the recommended optimisation solutions in the winter of 2017-2018. We have every reason to believe that they will start yielding savings straight away.”
(1) The drying tower is used to eliminate liquid waste.
(2) IT concerns information technology; OT concerns operational technology or automation.