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RAVEN -Resilience, Adaptability and Vulnerability of complex Energy Networks

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Funded by EPSRC EP/H04812X/1

Dr. Rui Carvalho
Dr. Wolfram Just
Prof. David K. Arrowsmith

The project

Energy infrastructure has gone through unprecedented change in recent decades and has resulted in the emergence of enormous networks that transcend national borders and even continental shores. There is, thus, an urgent need to generate more systematic knowledge on these complex systems, if one is to succeed in adequately handling the many threats and vulnerabilities. The project RAVEN aims at capturing essential measures, parameters and qualitative behaviours which may help us to gain insights into the limits of operation of these critical infrastructure networks, as well as to design the 'smart' grids of the future in a robust way. To accomplish this, we considered the following major problems during the project.

1. Energy networks have evolved under the pressure to minimize local rather than global failures. However, little is known about how this local optimization has influenced the vulnerability of energy infrastructures at the scale of continents. We have developed graph theoretical measures to characterise the vulnerability of European cities to intentional attacks, based on both current and future planned gas and electricity networks..

2. Although the UK has been self-sufficient so far, its energy needs are changing rapidly. In particular, 30 years of intense domestic exploitation of natural gas have resulted in the need for ever-increasing imports. Therefore, it is clear that the switch from net exporter to large importer as well as the associated changes in the marketplace raise new issues for security of supply for the UK. These issues are particularly acute during scenarios of geo-political crises such as the Ukraine-Russian supply crisis in January 2009. Our aim here will be to characterise the role of network structure when it is based on fair allocation of flows to end consumers.

3. Over the last decade, we have accumulated considerable knowledge on the topology and flow characteristics of the electricity and gas grids from the point of view of complex networks. However, little is known about transport processes on gas pipeline networks. Human conflict, geopolitical crises, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters can turn large parts of energy distribution networks offline. Europe's current gas supply network is largely dependent on deliveries from countries vulnerable to social and political instabilities such as Russia and North Africa. During crises, less delivery may mean greater congestion. Given the importance of the security of natural gas supply, we have developed a model to handle network congestion on various geographical scales. We offer a resilient response strategy to energy shortages and consider a variety of relevant scenarios. We conclude that robustness of Europe's gas supply can be left intact even when there are major supply disruptions, provided a fair distribution strategy is applied.

Relevant publications

1. Resilience of natural gas networks during conflicts, crises and disruptions
Rui Carvalho, Lubos Buzna, Flavio Bono, Marcelo Masera, David Arrowsmith, Dirk Helbing
PLoS ONE 9(3): e90265 (2014)

Reviewed in MIT Technology Review (December 2013)
Reviewed in (March 2014)
Reviewed in ETHZ News (March 2014)
Reviewed in Energy Post (January 2014)

2. Fair sharing of resources in a supply network with constraints
Rui Carvalho, Lubos Buzna, Wolfram Just, Dirk Helbing, David Arrowsmith
Phys. Rev. E 85, 046101 (2012)

Selected for the PRE Kaleidoscope (April 2012)

3. Robustness of trans-European gas networks
Rui Carvalho, Lubos Buzna, Flavio Bono, Eugenio Gutierrez, Wolfram Just, David Arrowsmith
Phys. Rev. E 80, 016106 (2009)

Reviewed by Mark Newman in Networks: An Introduction (see pp 33 and 34)