sOptimo – using maths to save energy

The industrial sector consumes around 30 per cent of final energy in Germany. In the industrial state of North Rhine-Westphalia the figure is even higher at 42 per cent, and thus around 250 billion kilowatt hours. There is a large savings potential here in the intelligent interlinking of energy generating and consuming units. The sOptimo research project has developed a software program for optimising such complex integrated energy networks. Among other things, it is capable of optimising the planning of new industrial parks and existing energy systems.

Gas, electricity, cooling energy, waste heat, energy storage facilities – modern integrated energy networks, such as those that can be found in industrial parks, for example, are becoming ever more versatile and complex. Anyone who wants to save energy and plan economically needs to maintain a clear overview. However, the ever increasing complexity means this is no longer intuitively possible.

Engine for progress:

  • optimisation of complex integrated energy networks
  • consideration of heat, cooling energy, electricity and storage facilities possible
  • demonstration test: 34% energy savings potential
  • district heating power station in Austria saves €400/day
  • optimisation, new builds and modifications to energy systems
  • interdisciplinary approach

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Photo: InfraServ

Supply lines at the Knapsack Chemical Park. Two of the industrial parks operated by the company InfraServ are participating in the project as application examples. The software automatically devises variants of the industrial park’s existing energy systems and evaluates them. The systems can then be optimised according to the preferred constraints, e.g. costs or CO2 reduction.

The TOP-Energy software developed by the Faculty for Technical Thermodynamics (LTT) at RWTH Aachen together with industry partners provides support in this area and uses the sOptimo algorithm to uncover huge potential savings. In one demonstration test at a pharmaceutical company, a savings potential of 34 per cent (53 million kilowatt hours per year) was identified in the primary energy demand, which is equivalent to around 11,000 tonnes of CO2.

The user determines the specifications

The objective of the sOptimo research project and its follow-up project sOptimo+ is to resolve the complex optimisation problem of energy systems using mathematical algorithms. The constraints are dictated by the operator. The user is thus left to decide whether a “most cost effective” or “most energy efficient” supply concept is required. “The software considers all conceivable solutions based on the requirements,” explains Prof. André Bardow, Faculty Head at LTT. “We often come up with proposed solutions that we wouldn’t have done intuitively.” Not only is it possible to develop the best design for new systems, it is also possible to further optimise systems already in operation.

Application is a moneymaker

The algorithm developed as part of the sOptimo project has also been integrated as an add-on module in the TOP-Energy software marketed by the Society for the Advancement of Applied Computer Science (Gesellschaft zur Förderung angewandter Informatik – GFaI). Energie AG Oberösterreich Wärme GmbH is using the software on a daily basis to optimise the operations of its district heating power station. Factors such as the electricity and gas price, the partial load behaviour of the systems, its own electrical energy consumption or even the state of charge of the storage system are included. “The mathematical optimisation problem therefore contains more than 5,000 variables and 8,000 equations,” says Dr. Stefan Kirschbaum from GFaI. “This shows just how complex the system is.” However, the application is also a moneymaker – within less than six months, the software has paid back the cost of the district heating plant.

Based on the results of sOptimo, the methodology in sOptimo+ will now be expanded and the tool developed to application maturity for use by planning offices, industrial parks and municipal utilities.

Photo: RWTH Aachen LTT

It’s time for the rigorous optimisation of the energy supply of industrial processes to be put into practice. sOptimo+ bridges the gap between research and general practical application, thus reducing resource consumption and CO2 emissions in industry.”

Prof. Dr.-Ing. André Bardow, Head of the Faculty for Technical Thermodynamics (LTT) at RWTH Aachen

Partners and sponsors

  • RWTH Aachen University, Lehrstuhl für Technische Thermodynamik
  • Gesellschaft zur Förderung angewandter Informatik e. V.
  • INEOS Köln GmbH
  • BFT Planung GmbH
  • Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie (BmWi)