Maximilien Larivière
Advisor | ing. jr, M. Ing. | Tax

Given the issues surrounding climate change and the desire to reduce fossil fuel consumption, energy production is becoming an increasingly important issue that requires constant technological advances in order to meet demand.

However, there is no point in producing power that cannot be used. This is where the problem lies for intermittent energy sources, such as wind and solar power: how can it be ensured that energy production and consumption are in synch.

There are many different types of energy storage systems, such as batteries, hydrolysis (hydrogen storage), etc. However, all of these systems have major drawbacks that prevent their large-scale use. Sigma Energy Storage has developed a compressed air energy storage system, which includes recovery of thermal energy, in order to address the problem of how to store energy efficiently.

Energy storage systems: Sigma Energy Storage and HT-CAES technology

We interviewed Martin Larocque, the CEO of Sigma Energy Storage, to learn more about the company’s new HT-CAES technology, which is expected to revolutionize energy storage in the coming years.

QUESTION: What are the fundamental principles underlying your company’s energy storage technology?

ANSWER: The technology is based on the principles for mechanical energy (air compression) and thermal energy (heat recovery). One of the great complexities of compressed air energy storage systems relates to the air compression process, which generates a significant amount of heat. We developed a highly efficient thermal energy transfer system to capitalize on this phenomenon, which allows us to store the heat (potential energy) created during compression and to reinject it into our process when producing energy for the power grid. By combining thermal and mechanical energy, we have a major competitive advantage, allowing us to build a more efficient, higher pressure system (providing benefits in terms of storage density).

QUESTION: What are the advantages of your system as compared to other energy storage systems currently available on the market?

ANWER: The way in which we manage thermal energy is unique and gives us a competitive edge over other air compression systems (CAES systems). Our competitive environment also includes various types of batteries (which store chemical energy) that stand out in terms of their useful life: a battery will last on average between 2,000 and 3,000 cycles while our HT-CAES system will last 40,000 cycles, for a Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) that is 5 to 10 times lower than for batteries currently available on the market. Our HT-CAES system also makes it possible to operate in harsh weather conditions, such as seen in the Canadian climate (including the Arctic). HT-CAES technology performs particularly well in these conditions.

QUESTION: What types of applications could be benefitted by your technology?

ANWER: Our procedure was developed with various applications in mind: a micro-network using very high capacity diesel generators or storage units in a large and complex power grid. Where micro-networks are concerned, our system uses air storage pressure vessels. This requires no particular geological features, while allowing for the benefits of our HT-CAES solution on a smaller scale (from 500 kW to several MW). For a larger power grid, we use geological cavities (salt or rock seals) to have a very large air reservoir. In such situations, it becomes possible to integrate a large quantity of intermittent renewable energy (solar, wind and tidal energy) and to stabilize the power grid by making it possible to store energy as it is produced and distribute it on the power grid as it is required.

QUESTION: What are the main technological hurdles that must still be overcome before your system can be introduced into the market?

ANSWER: From a development standpoint, the design work for the HT-CAES procedure has been completed. As for the immediate future, we are optimizing each of the related sub-systems to improve Round Trip Efficiency. In addition, we are working on a number of other innovation streams, such as CO2capture, liquefaction and transformation, as well as the integration and recovery of a exergy generated by external industrial processes. The future is bright for our technology, which makes it possible to stabilize power grids while integrating renewable energy.

QUESTION: What types of future or derivative applications do you see for your system?

ANSWER: We expect that each renewable energy infrastructure project will require an energy storage system, which generally represents one third of the power generated. In the short term, these are the applications that could benefit from our HT-CAES solution. In the medium term, our capacity to recapture and liquefy CO2 as part of our process, and to capture the thermal energy from an external process (i.e. exergy), will open up new industrial applications.

Exergy:  In given thermodynamic conditions, the maximum useful work which can be extracted from a system, i.e. the capacity of energy to do physical work.

27 Sep 2017  |  Written by :

Maximilien Larivière is an advisor at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton. He is your expert in taxation...

See the profile

Next article

Much is being said and written about blockchain technology recently. Although initially used to manage cryptocurrencies, according to some people, blockchain could potentially revolutionize how things are done and change many industries that have been supported and driven by countless IT solutions in recent decades.

From supply chain management to secure data storage solutions, not to mention the management of digital medical files… our imagination seems to be the only limitation to the possible applications for this technology, which seems to be turning into a “digital panacea”.

To help you navigate in these very turbulent waters without feeling overwhelmed, we’ll be publishing a series of three articles on the subject. The underlying concepts for blockchain technology are explained in sufficiently general terms in this first article, so that you can understand how blockchain can be used to prevent cryptocurrency fraud, the subject of the second article. The third article will explain how blockchain can generally be used in areas where it does not seem natural to resort to this technology.

Blockchain in a nutshell

Heralded as the next revolution, coming in the wake of the changes brought about by the arrival of the Internet, blockchain technology provides an environment where transactions can be carried out securely between strangers, with no need for an intermediary.

How does it work?

To do this, blockchain technology leaves an indelible and unalterable trace of all transactions in a ledger. This ledger is, in fact, a system composed of blocks comprising all previous transactions and connected to a constantly growing chain (hence the name blockchain).

Before each transaction is executed, the system validates that the party actually owns the related assets, as claimed. The system will scan the entire chain to ensure transaction integrity. Once the transaction has been validated, a new block containing an indeterminate number of transactions is created and added to the chain. The system is totally decentralized and composed of a series of computers that are part of a network. So far, so good? Let’s continue.

The hardest thing to understand is how fraud can be prevented and how it can be ensured that the information in the ledger is absolutely true. Since the system is decentralized, each node (i.e. each computer connected to the network) must include a copy of the ledger that has to be updated as transactions are executed. But how can a malicious individual be prevented from taking advantage of the system by introducing false transactions? This is where a very important factor comes in: Blockchain uses the same mathematical theories and concepts as seen in cryptography, i.e. the ones that are used to ensure the security of your banking transactions and online purchases.

In order for a transaction to take place, there must be trust between the parties (who do not know one another). This is achieved through the exchange of public cipher keys and the use of private deciphering keys to confirm the participants’ identity. These concepts are largely beyond the scope of this article and do not need to be discussed to provide a good understanding of blockchain technology. However, you should know that the Bitcoin system uses a 256-bit key. In other words, cracking this key would mean finding a random number of 2 to the power of 256, which is mathematically impossible. To learn more about this, read this article online (in French only).

Blocks are authenticated before being added to the chain, and therefore are linked to one another via hash codes, i.e. encrypted information that is already stored in the existing blocks. This means that the network would quickly detect and reject any attempt to modify even the tiniest bit of information already in the chain.

What are the impacts?

With blockchain technology, it’s possible for strangers to carry out secure transactions without the need for a central authority to manage them. This is precisely how blockchain technology is currently upending a wide array of transaction models traditionally based on the concept of confidence in established bodies which, over time, have built their reputations to earn people’s trust.

However, recent history has shown that, this trust has been eroded, particularly during the financial crisis, with the major problems experienced by several central banks that were supposed to guarantee and safeguard asset value in their monetary systems. What makes blockchain interesting is that it is now possible to imagine specific property and broader data management systems with no need for controls by central third parties.

Traceability

Yet another important feature of blockchain technology is worth highlighting as well: transaction traceability. Blockchain ledgers always include all transactions that were accepted by network participants. It is highly unlikely that one person will be able to change the recorded data. Blockchain technology therefore makes it possible to develop monitoring tools that can reliably trace any transaction executed in the system. This will be discussed further in a future article, together with some practical examples.

For more information, note that Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton announced the creation of a Montréal-based blockchain centre of expertise in July 2017. The centre’s objective is to provide companies with the expertise they need to make the transition to this new digital platform.

26 Sep 2017  |  Written by :

Manager, Tax, Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton

See the profile

Next article

To watch the webinar (in French), click here.

You can also download the document (in French).

Businesses often put production cost on the back burner. Yet this is an essential decision-making and profitability management tool.

If any of the following comments sound familiar, you could find some answers in the webinar:

  • I have trouble setting a sale price for my services or products.
  • I can’t determine who my profitable customers are.
  • When I submit a bid, the results aren’t in line with estimated margins.
  • Sales are up, but profits are down.
  • I haven’t updated my production cost in years.

Calculating production cost can answer many questions that are often a source of stress for managers.

Our management consulting experts specializing in production cost and profitability analysis will outline the benefits of applying best practices in this area and the pitfalls to avoid.

You can also view a video about a client who implemented production cost (in French).

This free information session is a Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton presentation.

OUR SPEAKERS

Christiane Caisse, Senior Manager, Finance and Production Cost

Ghyslain Cadieux, Senior Manager, Finance and Production Cost

Next article

Welcome to IFRS Newsletter – a newsletter that offers a summary of certain developments in International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) along with insights into topical issues.

We begin this third edition of the year by looking at the publication of IFRS 17 Insurance Contracts. After twenty years in the making, this new standard will have an impact on entities’ data, technology solutions and investor relations as well as their financial reporting.

We then move on to look at new proposals published by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), including proposed amendments to IAS 16 Property, Plant and Equipment. Further on in the newsletter, you will find IFRS related news at Grant Thornton and a general round-up of financial reporting developments. We finish with a summary of the implementation dates of newer standards that are not yet mandatory, and a list of IASB publications that are out for comment.