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Aggreko 2020 Furjirah 8

Interview with Aggreko's Bill Carrick: Providing Crucial Flexibility

July 12, 2020
RER interviews Bill Carrick, product director, Aggreko. He talks about renewable energy, cleaner thermal generation, energy storage, waste-heat recovery and solar thermal hybrids, being prepared for hurricanes, adapting to COVID-19, and more.

RER interviews Bill Carrick, product director, Aggreko. He talks about renewable energy, cleaner thermal generation, energy storage, waste-heat recovery and solar thermal hybrids, being prepared for hurricanes, adapting to COVID-19, and more.

RER: How, in your view, has generator technology improved in recent years? What have been some key advancements and how have they helped the rental company and the end user?

Carrick: Over the last 10 years, the energy market has undergone a significant transition, marked by a large shift towards renewable energy. Across the world, businesses, governments, and individuals face greater pressure to reduce their carbon footprints, with this pressure growing following the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. This shift has driven a wave of innovation across the sector, as ever-more sophisticated systems and controls are needed to integrate an ever-wider set of energy sources and interfaces, all while ensuring stability, reliability, and maximizing efficiency.

Battery storage is one of the most notable advancements in recent years, with new innovations such as our Y-Cube lithium ion battery system, which comprises 1 MW storage units contained in 20-foot containers, allowing for versatile, rapid deployment of energy storage solutions to provide stable, reliable power for projects across all markets. Storage provides stability for renewable energy generation, as well as increasing the efficiency of thermal units. This translates to more sustainable and efficient power solution, and one which has a positive impact on carbon footprints and balance sheets.

Another such innovation within the sector has been the integration of Remote Monitoring technology into our rental solutions, with this feature providing real-time feedback on generator performance. At Aggreko, this means we can help end users to maximize performance, while ensuring the continued efficient operation of all units, as well as maintaining stability and reliability across operations. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, this has been invaluable to many of our customers who have needed to reduce the number of people on sites to comply with social distancing without compromising the output of their operations.  

What are some of the technical advancements to come that you think will be significant?

As a global supplier of rental generators and temperature control equipment, it is our job to deliver solutions which meet the specific needs of our customers. Bespoke solutions are necessary to ensure the challenges are met effectively. By continuously innovating, we can ensure we have in place the best solutions to meet our customers’ needs. Some of the ways we are doing this include adding more efficient and cleaner thermal generation, energy storage, waste-heat recovery and solar thermal hybrids to our offer.  

In 2019, we took an innovative approach to a biogas generator project for a customer in Thailand to produce clean, cost-effective power. The outcome has been an estimated saving of U.S. $1 million per year and a reduction of over three million tonnes (metric tons) of greenhouse gases. This demonstrates the impact of taking an innovative approach and how it can help companies to meet their targets in terms of cost savings and reduced carbon emissions. 

What are some of your key products you are excited about?  

We have already outlined our battery storage, and we see this range increasing with the addition of canopy sized units adding to our mobile and modular flexibility. Over the coming months you will see more efficient thermal (both gas and diesel) added to our offer which comply with the stringent Tier4/Stage 5 emissions standards for diesel generation. 

Battery storage has become of much greater interest in recent years? Why is that, what are the benefits of energy storage technology?

Battery storage technology has developed significantly in recent years across the sector. Effective battery storage solutions allow for a greater use of renewable energy sources, providing stability and reliability, as well as further increase in efficiency for the use of thermal units. Products such as our Y-Cube allow for cheaper, cleaner and smarter energy. Storage solutions further allow for greater support of sectors that typically operate off-grid sites, such as mining, oil and gas projects, providing even greater flexibility to support customers. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting an “above normal” 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. What should rental companies be doing to prepare for hurricane season in areas that are vulnerable to hurricane activity, and what are manufacturers such as yourselves doing?

Being ready to rapidly deploy kits is paramount to being able to effectively respond to a natural disaster. Hurricanes are no different and we pride ourselves in being able to respond in a matter of days – no matter how remote the location. We have the world’s largest fleet of temporary generators, which means we can help customers recover from a power failure outage rapidly.

Aggreko has experience with hurricane preparedness. We helped a large hospital network on the Gulf Coast during hurricane season with a unique preparedness plan. We were tasked with identifying the risks that hurricanes posed to their HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems and power resources, and developing a Hurricane Rental Plan for them - ensuring all patients and staff were looked after in the case of extreme weather conditions. Having this plan in place meant there was no delay in delivering emergency power and HVAC systems in the event of extreme weather and ensuring that the systems we delivered were fully capable of meeting their needs. 

Obviously COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on all of our lives. What are the primary effects on the power-generation market? Obviously, events have come to a standstill, but how about the construction market, the rental market, the industrial market, the residential generator market?

COVID-19 has accelerated many of the trends that have been driving the energy transition in recent years, with the combination of volatile fuel prices, a change in energy demand and the growing calls for a green recovery. The employment of renewable energy sources throughout these lockdowns to provide sustainable, cost-effective power dispels the commonly cited issues of reliability and cost surrounding renewable energy and emphasizes their role in powering our communities.

While some sectors have had to significantly scale back due to the pandemic, others have needed to adapt and ensure operations can continue without impact despite the many challenges that COVID-19 has presented, from supply chain challenges to the necessary social distancing measures. One such sector is the pharmaceutical industry, which has been working tirelessly to identify a vaccine for the virus. In Italy, we supported a customer in the sector with temperature control equipment which supported its vital anti-viral drug testing.

Mining is another sector which hasn’t been able to shut down during the pandemic. We worked to equip a mine in Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia, with generators to provide power for extra portable offices and temperature test stations to ensure site and staff safety during the pandemic, meaning production was maintained as efficiently and safely as possible.

COVID-19 has also created a much more uncertain economic climate, meaning many will need to keep a closer eye on their balance sheet. Through renting equipment, customers are presented with a more flexible solution without the need for additional Capex investment -- providing the flexibility on both the sites and company balance sheets to meet needs without long-term commitments or expenditure. This means companies can continue to employ market-leading generator solutions for all projects without worries surrounding investment or longevity.

Anything special your company has done to contribute to anti-COVID efforts?

Aggreko recognizes the unique challenge posed by COVID-19 and the need for everyone to contribute to relief efforts in any way they can. In the UK, Aggreko offered the UK government 1,300 small canopy generator units to support the setup of testing sites across the UK. Recognizing the need for reliable, modular power to support these testing sites and wider effort against the effects of COVID-19, Aggreko provided these generators pro-bono, with the remote monitoring capacity of these products further enhancing safety procedures at the test sites by reducing the number of people physically present.

In North America, our team provided the necessary power generation to transform a soccer field in New York to a temporary hospital in just eight days to provide vital capacity to one of the most impacted states in America.

Aggreko have also provided valuable business continuity across Latin America. In Mexico, we provided 300kW of backup power to an airport construction site, which meant the project could be delivered safely and on time. 

The oil and gas markets have been hit hard. Do you have any expectations for this market area going forward as far as power generation needs?

It is right to say that COVID-19 has led to a significant fall in the demand for power. As grids respond to this change, their reliance on carbon-intense generation sources has decreased. The IEA’s latest Global Energy Review estimated that emissions would fall as much as 8 percent this year as coronavirus impacts continue.

That said, thermal energy still has a role to play in power generation despite the shift towards renewables. The very nature of renewable energy means that intermittency is an issue – we cannot guarantee that the sun will shine, or the wind will blow. What this demonstrates is that temporary power solutions must be flexible to meet the differing needs of a business, organization or country.  

Advances in technology have led to great increases in the reliability of hybrid and thermal systems, meaning that both solutions can be deployed interchangeably, providing this crucial flexibility and, above all, a reliable power supply to all projects. As such, whilst there has undoubtedly been an impact on demand and supply of oil-and-gas solutions, these continue to form valuable parts of any rental fleet to ensure sustained and continual power supply for all projects. 

What kind of impact has the developments in telematics had on the power generation industry?

The increased employment of technical solutions, particularly those in communications and information, has accelerated the adoption of digital solutions for all generator manufacturers - Aggreko’s Remote Monitoring Technology is a prime example of this. These solutions, and the technology behind them, has led to direct benefits for consumers, such as increased system efficiency, and a more reliable and stable supply. There’s the added benefit of real-time data, allowing manufacturers to better control, understand and deploy energy supply and demand, as well as ensuring the maximum efficiency and longevity of their systems.