Battery technology company Saft is looking to bring its Flex’ion li-ion battery systems to the Middle East. Oil Review speaks to Nick Finney, the company’s Li-ion business development and product manager, Industrial Standby Division.
THE MIDDLE EAST is a critical market for Saft, which specialises in advanced technology battery solutions for industry, from design and development to production, customisation and service provision.
“The largest installed base of the company’s standby division is in the Middle East” says Nick Finney, explaining that the region has long favoured nickel cadmium batteries, Saft’s core business, because of the harsh environment, the high temperatures and the remote locations.
“So we have a commitment to supporting the region, in terms of offer and product portfolio,” he adds, "saying that the company exhibits every year at Middle East Electricity in Dubai."
"Another significant advantage for offshore applications is its reduced footprint compared with conventional lead acid products.”
So the company is now focusing on bringing to market continuous innovations with its new fully integrated modular lithium ion battery system, Flex’ionTM, designed for AC and DC UPS ancillary power backup and switchgear applications in mission critical facilities such as data centres and oil and gas installations. The company hopes it will open up new applications and new markets due to its cost, reduced footprint, superior performance and maintenance-free properties.
The advanced battery system uses Saft’s patented Super Lithium Iron Phosphate (SLFPTM) chemistry which has a flat discharge curve, a natural fit for UPS systems that supply constant power. Finney stresses Saft’s strength in the chemistry development market, with around 10 per cent of revenue devoted to R&D. “We are constantly pushing the boundaries to find chemistries that suit particular applications. The SLFPTM chemistry, offering superior performance over conventional technologies, while maintaining the highest levels of safety, reliability and availability, makes the addressable market much larger for us.”
Another significant advantage for offshore applications is its reduced footprint compared with conventional lead acid products, being one third of the volume and one sixth of the weight of lead acid batteries, offering substantial savings on infrastructure costs. “On an offshore rig, mass and volume are at a premium, with each kilo of equipment requiring three kilos of infrastructure,” Finney points out. “Engineers have to perform a massive balancing trick. When you look at the replacement cost the gap is probably around US$2.3mn for one UPS. So we can make a big difference just on batteries.”
Other advantages of the system include long life (20 years,10 times more cycle life) and minimal maintenance requirements as a result of the smart features built into the advanced battery management system, which offers an array of monitoring capabilities, including system state-of-charge (SoC) and state-of-health (SoH). An integrated programmable logic controller pre-loaded with communications protocols simplifies transmission of around 70 parameters.
Furthermore, Saft’s Intelli-ConnectTM power box enables Flex’ion to be charged from a conventional, constant voltage battery charger, making it retrofittable. Flex’ion’s modular design offers maximum system flexibility in terms of power, operating voltage and backup time, with a wide range of energy and power combinations from 1.7kWh to 3MWh and 10kW to 5MW. The benefits of the new system and the presence of Saft’s legacy equipment in several offshore locations and utilities in the Middle East, would seem to indicate that there is strong potential for Flex’ion in the region, both for new and retrofit business. Production of Flex’ion is due to commence in November, from the company’s state of the art Li-ion sites in North America and Europe.