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New technology makes renewables even greener

A cooling technology developed in Norway and originally intended for use in the oil and gas industry is being used commercially for the first time. Not in oil and gas, but rather in offshore wind. Lundin Energy Norway has played a key role in the development of the technology, which is developed by Future Technology AS in Sandefjord, Norway.

“This is a textbook example of the oil and gas industry contributing to important and necessary technological development for renewable energy,” says Heidi Petersen, the chair of Future Technology AS.

“A lot of work has been done and a lot of money has been invested to arrive at a functioning technology,” Heidi Petersen says. “And Lundin was with us every step of the way. I would actually go so far as to say that without Lundin, this technology would not have been developed. They provided funds and expertise for the actual project, not to mention that it’s also easier to sell this to other contributors when we can show that Lundin is a ‘true believer’,” she says.

The technology is a passive cooler installed on the seabed, which utilises the natural seawater uplift that occurs around the warm cooling pipes. The principle is simple, but very complex calculations are required to make sure it will work in practice. A project spanning the last five years has led to the first successful functioning subsea cooler.

Future Technology, based in Sandefjord developed the technology, which is now marketed under the name FSCC. Support for the project came from organisations such as the Research Council of Norway, Innovation Norway and the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020. Lundin Energy Norway has been a key industrial partner along with GDF SUEZ and Bayern Gas.

“Our motivation for joining the project was that we saw a potential need to cool down the wellstream from a producing oil field before further processing,” says Arnljot Skogvang, head of R&D in field developments in Lundin Energy Norway. “There were solutions on the market that could be used, for example based on large seawater pumps but they need a lot of electric power, and they also whirl up sand and mud from the seabed. This will eventually clog the filters, which will then have to be replaced. The new system operates with a closed loop, requires little power and has no moving parts,” Skogvang explains.

Renewables first in line
The new technology is now commercially available, but the first order did not come from oil and gas, it came from the renewables industry. The cooling technology will be installed at a large offshore wind farm in the North Sea. In order to produce wind power far from shore, it is necessary to transform alternating current from the turbines into direct current before the energy can be transported over long distances. Part of the energy is lost to heat in this transformation process, which makes cooling necessary.

“By using this technology on transformer platforms in offshore wind farms, the actual wind power becomes even greener,” Heidi Petersen says.

“More of the generated energy can be delivered for consumption on land. The open seawater systems used today are also vulnerable to fouling, which means they rely on the addition of chlorine to avoid clogging,” Petersen says. There are no such discharges in FSCC’s closed cooling circuit.

Several thousand tests were conducted during the development of this new cooling technology, including some with a prototype in the Haugesund harbour basin. Material samples have also been placed in the sea off the island of Runde for several years to find the material type that works best as regards avoiding fouling.

The new technology is tested in the harbour of Haugesund.