How can we boost the energy transition in a cost-effective manner? Can district heating play a significant role in the Dutch energy transition? We don't want to jump to conclusions too quickly, but yes, we believe so. WarmtelinQ is a great example of how a digitally-enabled transmission network can have a major impact on district heating. 

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WarmtelinQ

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The energy transition goals

A goal has been set: by 2050, the heating systems of all buildings in the Netherlands need to shift from natural gas to sustainable energy sourceslike district heating and electric heat pumpsas has been agreed upon in the Dutch Climate Agreement. By 2030, a greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 49 million tonnes needs to be realized in the Netherlands.  

Gasunietraditionally taking care of natural gas transport—is serious about its role in enabling a zero-emissions energy system. A leading example that demonstrates their ambition is the WarmtelinQ project, which enables emission reductions in the Netherlands by 2 to 3 million tonnes CO2-equivalent per year. With thatit contributes about 5 percent to the 2030 climate goals. 

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BY 2030

greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by 49 million tones.

BY 2050

heating systems need to shift from natural gas to sustainable energy sources.

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2 to 3 million tonnes 

of CO2 equivalent per year reduction in emissions, enabled by the WarmtelinQ project.


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A unique project in the Netherlands

WarmtelinQ is a unique innovation project, powered by Gasunie and the Port of Rotterdam, as it will construct the first open transmission network for district heating in the Netherlands. This network will transport residual heat from industry in the port of Rotterdam to urban areas between Rotterdam and The Hague, giving these areas access to low-carbon energy sources 

In September 2019, the Dutch Government assigned Gasunie to become the first independent Transmission System Operator (TSO) for district heating in our countrythe equivalent of TenneT for electricity and Gasunie for natural gas.

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Shaping a highly automated heat transport company 

The daily operations of this district heating TSO will be shaped in a work-stream of the WarmtelinQ project, which we are proud to contribute to. So, how can digital technology help WarmtelinQ build a reliable and cost-effective heat transport company from scratch? And meanwhile, shape a new foundation for our future sustainable energy system?

Its key to be as cost-effective as possible, to create a heat transport system that benefits society and local communities the most. This means that Gasunie’s task is to operate the network with the lowest possible costs.  

We feel lucky to be a part of the project team that is shaping the operating model for this to-be established heat transport company. In our role, we see it as a unique challenge to set up a highly efficient company with a degree of automation, requiring only a minimum amount of specialized manpower to reduce costs.

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It's key to be as cost-effective as possible, to create a heat transport system that benefits society and local communities the most.

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Using worldwide expertise 

To create this highly- automated heat transport company, we need to take a look at how the latest digital technologies and smart operating model methodologies can helpBeing part of the Accenture Utilities community gives us access to worldwide knowledge and experience about shaping optimal to-be scenarios for existing utility companies and their processes.  

While shaping the blueprint for a company that yet needs to be established, our team finds itself in a unique position: a position in which we are able to use all available expertise to design a highly efficient and automated company from scratch, enabled by digital technologies. 

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WarmtelinQ

A vision for the 'Control Center of the Future' as described in Accenture's Digitally Enabled Grid research (Source: Accenture, 2020).

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A digitally-enabled heat grid 

To create a digitally-enabled heat grid, there are three categories of digital technologies that we find particularly relevant to consider:  

    1. Easy-access interfaces for customers of the transport network are essential for communication about expected transport volumes and available network capacity, but also agreed contracts, billing procedures and trading processes. The interfaces should be accessible and client-friendly, enabling new parties to join the open transmission network without heavy IT investment for interfacing with WarmtelinQ. In addition, these interfaces should make tariff structures transparent, as well as the processes for settlement and allocation of variable transport costs and imbalance costs.
    2. Digital twin models combined with optimization algorithms can assist the monitoring and control of the network, enabling a self-sustained grid. A digital twin model estimates the state of the network accurately, in every part of the network, both at the present time as well as predictions about the future state. This gives insights into the consequences of interventions on the network and on the security of supply. When integrated with optimization algorithms, these models can automate and optimize the daily dispatching and balancing processes, while minimizing transport costs. Alarms should be integrated that are only raised for high priority incidents, when manual intervention is needed to avoid overloading operators or support engineers with too many false alarms.
    3. Predictive asset management models powered by artificial intelligence are dependent on the amount and quality of historical data available. These models check for data anomalies to detect network failures or leakages early on and predict the need for asset maintenance. As a greenfield heat grid operator, WarmtelinQ can ensure that the relevant data is properly recorded and stored, at the right level of detail. These data include pipe monitoring measurements, such as leakage detection, vacuum detection and cathodic protection, but also accurate administration of performed maintenance. By combining these data, predictive asset management models can be trained from the start. When maintenance demand of the heat network increases after many years of operation, these models will become more and more valuable for appointing maintenance budge tin the most efficient and effective way. 

    Were dedicated to finding the digital technologies that offer the highest value in the heat transport value chainThese technologies will be integrated into business processes in a solid operating model that ensures the lowest costs for the end users. With this, WarmtelinQ will connect more urban areas to sustainable energy sources, enlarging local opportunities for transitioning to a sustainable energy system. 

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    WarmtelinQ will connect more urban areas to sustainable energy sources, enlarging local opportunities for transitioning to a sustainable energy system.

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    Boosting the energy transition 

    Gasunie wants to play a key role in the transition from natural gas to sustainable energy sources. A large amount of heat energy is now produced in the port of Rotterdam, in high temperature industrial processes that are essential and will remain essential for our economy in the next decades. 

    After its contribution to industrial processes, residual heat is not used anymore. By capturing this residual heat and transporting it to households, less natural gas needs to be burned for heating their houses, thereby saving CO2 emissions. 

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    Rotterdam refineries by night (Source: Port of Rotterdam)

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    Finding a new purpose for waste energy leads to net energy savings, but at the source, this energy is still being produced by burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases. However, in the journey toward a carbon-neutral society, three developments complement Gasunie's mission to boost the energy transition: 

    1. The high temperatures required for industrial processes can also be achieved by burning hydrogen – from surplus wind energy, for instance. Gasunie is dedicated to enabling the hydrogen economy, making this option a realistic one in the years to come.
    2. Instead of emitting greenhouse gases from industry into the air, these emissions can be captured and stored in large underground caverns, so these processes become carbon neutral. This option will be put to practice by the Porthos project, also powered by Gasunie. 
    3. Next to using residual heat as an energy source, the open transmission network of WarmtelinQ creates opportunities for sustainable heat sources in the future, such as geothermal or solar thermal energy. In the long term, when the distribution networks in Zuid-Holland are prepared for lower temperatures, WarmtelinQ can function as a 4th generation heat transmission network characterized by its low temperatures and renewable energy sources. 

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    The WarmtelinQ network will connect the Rotterdam Port area to The Hague and has various branches to urban areas in Zuid-Holland (Source: WarmtelinQ).

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    The heat transmission network of the future facilitating the energy transition

    WarmtelinQ will set the basis for an inter-connected 4th generation district heating system in Zuid-Holland, bshaping a cost-effective, digitally-enabled heat transport service, that finds a new use for residual heat.  In the next decades, this system can play a significant role in the energy transition to establish a carbon-neutral society, while also setting an international example in enabling an open heat market 

    If you want to learn more about WarmtelinQ or our utilities expertiseplease don’t hesitate to send us a message!

Onno Wesselink

Technology Consultant - Accenture Strategy & Consulting, Utilities

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