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Simulation Software Helps Optimize Utility Transport Grids

Utility pipelines (Alaska.gov)

(Alaska.gov)

Software developed by Fraunhofer Institute mathematicians and engineers can simulate the workings of utility grids and thus help managers of these facilities plan and operate their critical networks. Researchers from Fraunhofer’s Institute for Algorithms and Scientific Computing in Augustin, Germany will exhibit the software at the Hannover Messe technology trade show in Germany, 23-27 April.

The new simulation software, called Multiphysical Network Simulation Framework (MYNTS) is the product of a team led by University of Cologne mathematician Caren Tischendorf that addresses the increased complexity, costs, and vulnerability of smart grids. The term “smart grid” is often associated with the transport of electric power, but the concepts uncovered by the Fraunhofer team apply as well to other critical utilities, such as water and natural gas.

Societies depend on these grids to deliver their resources under increasingly demanding conditions. Natural gas pipelines, for example, must be maintained within a temperature range that keeps the gas from liquefying, which can be a problem in extreme winters, such as those encountered in parts of Europe and North America. To maintain this temperature range, a complex system of compressors, pre-heaters, coolers, and other elements is needed. Systems operators constantly monitor the condition of their pipelines and plan ahead for reactions to potential temperature and pressure changes.

MYNTS models transport grids as systems of differential-algebraic equations that allow the grids to be flexibly analyzed and better planned. The equations create a simulation that demonstrates the effects of changes in various factors. For example, the impact of temperature fluctuations in natural gas, as described above, can be modeled to estimate changes in the flow measurements, or the impact of subnetwork failures on other network components.

The software is expected to get signifcant use in Germany’s smart electrical power grids, planned for construction over the next few years. Intelligent networking and controlling of electricity producers, storage facilities, consumers, and network resources in power supply networks are considered to be among the greatest economic and environmental technology challenges.

While the MYNTS software has the same basic numerical core, it allows for flexibility to incorporate unique features of the resources transported through the networks. For natural gas pipeline networks, for example, users can set up and control their own subnetworks or add compressor stations and mixing chambers.

Fraunhofer says it has used MYNTS successfully in several research projects. The institute says it is now in negotiations for licensing of the software with companies in various industries.

Read more: Report: Electrical Grid Needs Technology, Regulatory Changes

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