Mathematical models for energy reform

The image shows pipelines in a gas plant.

A Transregio at FAU is developing new mathematical methods for the gas networks of the future

Gas will play a crucial role as an energy source over the coming decades. But how can the German gas network be prepared for the growing demand? This is the subject of research being carried out by mathematicians from FAU, TU Darmstadt, TU and HU Berlin and WIAS Berlin in Transregio 154: ‘Mathematical modelling, simulation and optimisation using the example of gas networks’. The German Research Foundation (DFG) has now extended the funding for the Transregio by a further four years.

Energy is a topic that is currently at the forefront of debate in politics, science and society. We need to develop a safe, clean and environmentally-friendly energy supply and, at the same time, ensure that we use energy as efficiently as possible. This efficiency not only applies to energy consumption, but also to the transport and distribution of energy sources.

Gas will play an important role as a critical resource for supplying energy in the near future. It is still abundant, can be traded and is available quickly. It can be stored, and any renewable energy that is currently surplus to requirements can be converted to gas and the gas can be transported in supply networks to consumers.

At the same time, providing a gas supply that is reliable while being tailored to uncertain technical, energy-related, economic and political conditions poses considerable challenges. Examples of this include transportation and network technology or market regulation. Gas transportation companies must ensure they can fulfil each regular contract concluded on the market within the given technical capacities.

Integrating complex mathematical methods

New mathematical instruments are required to solve these problems. Developing these instruments is the aim of the collaborative research centre/Transregio 154 ‘Mathematical modelling, simulation and optimisation using the example of gas networks’. It was set up at FAU four years ago and has now been extended by the DFG. The Transregio’s 17 sub-projects are examining new findings in various fields of mathematics. During the last four years, TRR 154 has developed new methods for mathematical simulation, modelling and optimization. The unique aspect of the project is the fact that these methods link knowledge from various areas of mathematics. During the second phase of the project, one focus will be on integrating and further developing the basic methods and processes from the first phase while concentrating more on integrating aspects relating to the market and uncertainties. A research training group integrated in the collaborative research centre is providing support for the scientific training of the participants to ensure they are best prepared for a successful career in research or industry.

The liberalisation of gas networks means it can be almost freely traded on the market. In contrast to electricity, which is transported in almost real time, gas is more like a liquid and transporting it takes time and it is subject to other physical dynamics. These dynamics can only be examined using advanced mathematical methods, such as those developed in TRR 154. The aim is to define the parameters of the market models in such a manner that security of supply is ensured while considering uncertainties and fluctuations on the market such as fluctuations in demand.

Findings and methods with a wide range of applications

The new methods are raising the quality of the mathematical principles for meeting the challenges described above to a new level. Furthermore, the mathematical findings can not only be applied to gas networks, but also to other physical transport networks such as water or electricity networks. They are also suitable for mixed integer, non-linear and stochastic optimisation problems and thus provide a mathematical basis not only for examining several questions of practical relevance but also new mathematical theories and methods.

Further information:

Prof. Dr. Alexander Martin
Phone: +49 / 9131 8567163