Crude oil flow becomes electricity - at least in the Austrian Alps. The TAL - Transalpine Oil Pipeline - which delivers crude oil from Trieste, Italy, via the Alps to Germany and Austria, put the first crude oil "run-of-pipeline" power plant worldwide in operation on the 21st of September 2018.
The plant is able to produce emission-free electricity, using the same principle as the hydroelectric power plants: the kinetic energy of the crude oil is used to drive a turbine that produces the electricity. Local geography makes this possible, because of one the major challenges the TAL has to face - the differences in altitude along the pipeline route, which add-up to 1,600 meters. TAL has now developed an innovative method of generating electricity along the longest downfall along its route.
The kinetic energy of the crude oil is built up by the downfall and drives a turbine in the valley below. It is noteworthy that this is a Francis-Turbine, the first ever to be installed in a crude oil pipeline. The turbine is a product of the Austrian company Global Hydro and TAL has installed it at the Taimeralm in the municipality of Mittersil at an altitude of 1,335 meters above sea level. Alessio Lilli, General Manager of the TAL Group, stressed that "with this globally unique project, the TAL will make a contribution to environmentally friendly energy supply in Austria and significantly increase its energy efficiency".
Project manager Markus Mühlmann describes the capacity of the unique project at the ceremonial inauguration of the plant: "The annual working capacity is around 11.5 GWh. The maximum continuous output in normal operation is 2,500 kW." The amount of energy generated corresponds to around twelve percent of the current energy consumption of the local segment of the Transalpine pipeline and could supply 3,000 households. In 2017, a volume of 42.4 million tons of crude oil flowed through the TAL. Compared to the previous year, this is an increase of 2.4 percent.
ILF Consulting Engineers Austria GmbH was responsible for planning the plant. The construction took three years and required an investment of 11 million €. Another characteristic of the Taimeralm facility is its location in the heart of a national park. To ensure that the plant fits in well with its surroundings, it was built with a green roof and a wooden facade.