The researchers are now collaborating with experts at Shell to apply the model to a natural gas production system in Malaysia.
Natural gas consumption is expected to increase dramatically in the coming decades. However, in the short term, demand for this clean-burning fuel is highly volatile. Because natural gas is difficult to transport and store, energy companies tend to produce it only when they have buyers lined up and transportation capacity available, generally under long-term contracts. As a result, they miss opportunities for short-term sales, and the overall availability of natural gas is reduced.
Natural gas companies would like to operate their production networks more efficiently and flexibly. But operators can be overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices to be made and obligations to be met under supply contracts with customers and facility- and production-sharing agreements with other companies.
According to Professor Paul I. Barton of the Department of Chemical Engineering, the only way for a company to optimize such a system-that is, to operate it so as to best meet all obligations, objectives and constraints-is to formulate it as a mathematical problem and solve it.
"If there were just one or two decisions to make, an engineer could do it," he said. "But when you've got 20 valves to set and 50 different constraints to satisfy, it's impossible for a person to see. Computer procedures can take all of that into account."
Barton and chemical engineering graduate student Ajay Selot have spent the past two years developing a mathematical model to help guide operators' decisions one to three months in advance. The model focuses on the "upstream supply chain," that is, the system from the natural gas reservoirs to bulk consumers such as power plants, utility companies and liquefied natural gas plants.
While other models have focused on optimizing individual subsystems, the new MIT model encompasses the whole system. "Ideally, operators would like to make decisions based on information from the entire system," Selot said.
Based on fundamental physical principles, the researchers' model describes gas flow, pressure and composition inside every pipeline in the network. Equations describe how the flow properties change as the gas passes through each facility along the way. The equations interact so the model can track flows and how they mix throughout the system.
To be useful in the real world, the model must also incorporate-in mathematical terms-the rules from all contracts and agreements. For example, what fraction of production must be shared with other companies?
Operational constraints must also be included. How rapidly can gas be withdrawn from a given well? Further, the company must define its goals, such as maximizing production, minimizing total costs or scheduling facilities in a particular way.
The final challenge is to "solve the model" so that it defines the specific operating choices that will best satisfy the stated obligations, constraints and goals. Standard optimization techniques cannot handle such a large and complex model. Selot is therefore refining and extending standard techniques to solve that problem.
He and Barton are now performing a case study of a natural gas production system in Malaysia operated by Sarawak Shell Berhad, Malaysia (SSB). They are working closely with field engineers at SSB and Shell International Exploration and Production, the Netherlands, to build a realistic representation of the Sarawak system-a challenge, as the system is the product of decades of evolution rather than coordinated planning. All of the system's complexity must be reflected in the mathematical model if it is to be of practical value to the Sarawak planners.
This research was supported by Shell International Exploration and Production through MIT's Laboratory for Energy and the Environment.
Elizabeth A. Thomson | MIT News Office
Organic-inorganic heterostructures with programmable electronic properties
29.03.2017 | Technische Universität Dresden
Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics
23.03.2017 | North Carolina State University
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
29.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
29.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences