Retrofit Oil And Gas

Retrofitting electrical systems can save energy and cut carbon

Image credit: ABB

Prioritising retrofitting measures such as replacing outdated circuit-breakers, upgrading defective low-voltage breakers and installing energy-monitoring tools that incorporate AI are simple ways in which energy-intensive industries can achieve carbon savings.

Last month’s COP27 climate talks in Egypt focused on practical solutions for delivering COP26 commitments made by participating governments in Glasgow last year. These include the decarbonisation of key industries - including manufacturing, food, cloud computing and energy - by investing in new technologies, making older equipment more energy efficient and changing management practices.

While we’ve been talking about retrofitting facilities for years, the urgency to do so has never been more imperative. From Europe’s hottest heatwaves to severe flooding in Pakistan, 2022 has seen some of the worst impacts of climate change hitting home.

And unless we accelerate decarbonisation now to stop global temperatures rising more than 1.5°C, there will be much worse to come. On top of this, many commercial industries across the world are facing rising inflation and potential supply chain disruption, putting the onus on facilities management teams to extend the lifecycle and productivity of existing electrical assets.

The good news is that many of the technologies and types of equipment needed to make energy-intensive industries more sustainable are already widely available.

One of the greatest untapped opportunities for carbon and cost savings is upgrading existing electrical equipment so that it lasts much longer, uses minimal energy in production and prevents downtime from breakdowns with real-time monitoring.

In our work at ABB, we know many sectors like food and beverage producers, data centres and semiconductor manufacturing need to have absolute uptime on their services. In the currently inflationary environment they can’t afford to experience long-term shutdown of vital plant equipment like vats.

In terms of best practice, early adopters are instead taking a preventative approach, replacing non-digital, older circuit breakers with more intelligent, sensor-enabled breakers linked to cloud-computing platforms.

These can provide real-time data and analysis on asset condition, performance and potential safety issues; helping operators prevent potential hazards before they arise, minimising disruptions to production while extending the lifecycle of an asset by as much as 30 years.

At a time when, for many industries, every minute of production counts, replacing ageing and defective circuit breakers can be done with minimal downtime and without replacing entire systems.

In fact, 50 per cent of electrical equipment like metal cabinets, steel plates and busbars – products with high carbon footprints – can actually be used perpetually without being replaced if outdated components such as switchgears and circuit breakers are regularly monitored, maintained and upgraded.

For example, ABB has previously worked with global fertiliser company Yara on a $25m project to install a low-voltage switchgear to one of its production plants in Porsgunn, Norway. Covering a distance of over a kilometre, the switchgear was able to feed into a third-party programme the company had recently introduced to increase production by thousands of tonnes of fertiliser each year.

To help the company achieve this, the switchgear included comms protocols designed to boost electrical-distribution performance and provide condition-based monitoring while providing detailed process and electrical information to plant operators in real time.

For other sectors like data centres, the key priority when retrofitting will be avoiding any data shutdowns, due to the potential reputational damage - think how quickly news travels when apps like WhatsApp or Slack stop working. Meanwhile, for oil and gas, the focus in recent years has been about improving safety standards and investing in renewable power generation.

This has certainly been the case for ABB’s current project with the Oseberg oil and gas field on the Norwegian Continental Shelf to help it reduce CO2 emissions by 320,000 tonnes per annum - equivalent to 160,000 cars. As it accounts for 3 per cent of Norway’s total greenhouse gas emissions, upgrading the site will play a major role in hitting the nation’s goal of cutting CO2 emissions by 50-55 per cent by 2030.

It will do this by part-electrifying the site with 105MW of largely renewable power, phasing out gas turbines and installing two new 10MW pre-compressors for gas production.

Working with engineering partner Aibel, the project will see ABB deliver the complete power and control systems onshore and offshore. The new electrical system is designed for 180MW high-voltage alternating current (HVAC) at 132kV and consists of an onshore power transformer, low and medium voltage switchgears and a complete power distribution control system (PDCS) as well as an extensive modification to Oseberg A main switchgear that will enable it to receive more power from shore.

From a financial perspective, retrofit service allows customers to make new investments in stages rather than as a single, large investment. Where there is a large installed base, staggering the retrofits over time will help to optimise capital expenditure as well as enable the installations to be made during shorter production breaks and ideally within normal planned maintenance downtime periods.

At a time when many industries are being compelled to raise safety standards and take tangible action on climate change, the question isn’t how can we afford to prioritise retrofitting but rather how can we afford not to?

Stuart Thompson is president of ABB Electrification’s service division.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles