Lean2Sustain Blog

The Way Forward.

-- A Unique Collaboration --

Leveraging Technologies and Service Collaboration

I was energised and enthused by being made aware of the recent advances in technology in the Offshore Energy Industry at the recent EEEGR Offshore Wind Week at Orbis Energy in Lowestoft. It’s not just about technology advances, but overall collaboration.

The two technical advances are related to energy sharing between the gas field companies, and the wind energy suppliers. The first one is what they call “Gas to Wire”. This is where the gas provision companies, are not just sending gas onshore, but they are using gas fired generators on the platforms to produce electricity, thus taking advantage of the electrical network provided by the offshore wind turbines, and push power onshore. A similar improvement is happening in reverse. The wind generated power is now being used to power the gas compressors on the gas platforms. This may sound obvious, but it takes application, commitment and engineering. A great example of how industries which have competed traditionally can work in a symbiotic way. The collaboration goes even further. The different industries, have now worked with the field supply and logistics companies to develop a system where they can book and share supply ships, who are serving both turbines and platforms, ensuring non fully loaded trips are minimised.

All the above will improve supply efficiency, and reduce the overall carbon footprint  for the UK.

Extending the Life

 

There was a very interesting article in the June TCE (Chemical Engineer Magazine) around battery recycling particularly in respect to EV’s, in an article called “Back from the Dead”. A company called Aceleron, ar looking behind the science, data and technology for getting the most out of Li Ion cells used in EV batteries. The sad fact is that when these batteries come to the end of their commercial life,there is 70% of SOH (State of Health) or a measure of its performance remaining. Recycling and recovering LiIon batteries is not inexpensive, and in certain case the processing can cost in real terms, more tha using new Li, and starting from scratch. Herein lies the problem, because Li is a significant element in all electronic devices. As reported in the TCE a few years back, Li is one of the rapidly disappearing elements of the periodic table. Batteries that are used for motive power also have some of the harshest usage profiles as you would imagine versus those that are used for storing energy from renewable sources such as wind or solar power.

The Eu Battery directive and UK environmental laws. state that it is the OEM , that is responsible for disposal, which is clearly the right approach, and will force EV makers to think about efficiency, recycling in a way that is both good for the consumer, and with hopefully the lowest environmental footprint. According to Aceleron, the Nissan leaf is the most popular EV in the UK with sales of circa  40,000 as of Q4 2016. Nissan estimates that disposal could cost around £2,500, which equates to circa 15% of the purchase price, which obviously a huge headache. The reason for the high processing cost is the fact that there are so many  different materials present in the battery. The active materials are often powder coated onto the metal foil, which adds another level of complexity and difficulty. There are no recycling facilities currently in the UK, but a handful in Belgium, Germany and France. Furthermore, the batteries are classed as hazardous waste.

Aceleron have developed a testing regime, that includes physical inspection, and electro-chemical testing,  which will determine whether the batteries are fit for re-use. There is a lot of potential energy storage currently been thrown away, and they state there is a still a lot more work to be done. It’s imperative that the testing continues, and more efficient and sustainable processes are found for battery “re-lifing”.

A Circular Economy – A Paradigm too far ?

For as long as I can remember we have lived in a boom-bust economy.  Our GDP linked to global  markets – at the mercy of the next world economy to come on stream wanting to develop infrastructure and create commercial growth as far as the money lasts.  We gear up to meet demand, and then fall into recession when the bubble bursts, creating hardship and casualties for those caught up in fallout.  These boom bust cycles create a linear sine wave and we have continued along this road since the industrial revolution.  With increasing consumerism, the product life of fashions and trends plus the built in obsolescence of electrical and other goods provides a short term GDP focus on end markets.  All too soon products become discarded creating an increasing waste stream paid for by the householder through taxation.  As consumers we are trapped onto the treadmill of buying the latest trend, only to pay for its disposal sooner rather than later.    “If we keep  doing what we’ve always done, we’ll keep on getting what we’ve always got” or words to that effect.

Arguably the environmental impact of the boom to bust scenario means that the environment fares better when we are in recession mode.  Having to be increasingly creative with less means we become more imaginative and inventive.  We also use less resources and utilities, and therefore create less waste for disposal.

So how do we break away from the feast or famine circus?   What if there was an alternative to being duped into buying a product, only to find that we don’t need it anymore, and have to pay again to dispose of it?

There is a revolution on the horizon, that of a ‘circular economy’ which concentrates effort on maintaining the resources and energy within the lifecycle of the products created.  Instead of developing   products for sale, that have a shelf life of “x” years that are not designed for repair, manufacturers start to build in product longevity whilst considering life cycle, which in turn challenges the boom / bust scenario.  By designing products that are of a robust quality, able to be repaired, adjusted, modified and made fit for our purposes during use where the components become re-manufactured back into the process, the shelf life becomes infinity.  Great we all hail, but the really neat thing is that some of these pioneer companies are considering hiring their products as a service. The manufacturer no longer designs products for sale to the consumer, but instead they sell the use of that product, taking responsibility for its lifetime. What if we no longer purchased, used, outgrew and disposed of goods, but instead bought into the use of a home laundry service, or a supply of bikes for our children that grew with them?   This may sound far fetched but companies like Isla bikes have started to introduce such schemes. A British Standard has just been launched providing guidance to organisations around how to apply holistic thinking to product design.

With the economic benefit of the circular economy being estimated at 18 trillion Euros in Europe, and the creation of 200,000 new jobs in the UK by 2030*, the opportunity for decoupling our ties with linear resource use and the associated environmental impact are immense.

Breaking out of the boom bust will  not be an easy option, but what an opportunity to challenge the current paradigm and introduce a new circular era.

*World Economic Forum 2017 Register of Global Risks of Highest Concern for Doing Business.

First Hydrogen Train Tested

 

The first Hydrogen Train has been successfully tested in Germany. Another major step on the journey to “zero” emissions. Still a lot to be done to make these commercially viable, but we keep edging closer. Passenger trials are set to start in 2018. It is pleasing to see that fuel cell technology has not been abandoned, and with design development and “lean” thinking the trains will become even more effective /efficient.


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