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Story: 25.03.2008

Unit heating power station for Neumayer III Antarctic station

Model of the new Neumayer III polar station

Model of the new Neumayer III polar station (© Alfred-Wegener Institute)

Alpiq subsidiary Kraftanlagen Hamburg GmbH won a unique contract to plan, build and test the Unit Heating Power Station (UHPS) for the new German-operated Neumayer III Antarctic Station. The plant is scheduled to go into operation in the freezing polar climate in 2009.

Winter in the Antarctic is endless and unimaginably cold. To survive such extreme temperatures, you need to be a penguin – or have a first-class UHPS. The German institute responsible for operating the Neumayer III research station opted for the latter. The station is a research observatory for geophysical, meteorological and atmospheric chemistry measurements as well as a logistics base for summer expeditions. Scientists also use an infrasound measuring station as part of the international monitoring system of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation.

The unit heating power station for Neumayer III is being prepared for shipping to its destination.

The unit heating power station for Neumayer III is being prepared for shipping to its destination.

"A challenging and unique task"

Kraftanlagen Hamburg drew up the detailed plans for the Neumayer III UHPS, and completed construction and testing within a few months. The engine unit, complete with fuel, thermal and electrical separation, was integrated directly in the containers and pre-assembled in Bremerhaven, Germany, in autumn 2007.

Successful pilot trial

After successful operating tests, the energy plant was moved and packed in ten two-storey containers for its long sea voyage to the Antarctic. How does Martin Heimann, Head of Sales, Environmental Technology, at Kraftanlagen Hamburg, sum up the first stage? "It was an extremely challenging and unique project which, thanks to the experience of our project manager Jürgen Lohkamp and the know-how of our module packagers, we brought off successfully. We are very proud of this achievement."

Four diesel motors generate electricity and heat

From 2009 the new Antarctic station will be home to around 40 research scientists in the summer season, but only nine during the Antarctic winter: A doctor, who also acts as station director; a meteorologist, an atmospheric chemist, two geophysicists, an engineer, an electrician, a communications/electronics engineer, and a cook. The overwintering team stay for about 14 months, for nine of which they are completely cut off and only able to communicate with the outside world by radio and e-mail. Meals consist exclusively of frozen food. The darkness is difficult to bear during the nine weeks when the sun disappears from the horizon. The energy plant's reliability is absolutely essential. Three diesel motors and an emergency unit ensure the supply of power during the polar night.

Emperor penguins: Around 5000 pairs breed in the vicinity of the Neumayer Station.

Emperor penguins: Around 5000 pairs breed in the vicinity of the Neumayer Station.

No fear of theft

But the climate on the Ekström Ice Shelf also has its upside. Scientists can always leave the ignition keys in their snowmobiles, since there's no need to worry about theft. And they share their icy environment only with penguins.

A special breed of power plant

The unit heating power plant for the polar station consists of three diesel engines and an emergency unit of the same type. The units are special constructions based on Scania marine diesel engines. In addition to reliability, the priority was on a simple, clear layout so that the engines could be serviced as easily as possible.

High availability

Kraftanlagen Hamburg designed the plant with a view to extremely high availability. Martin Heimann, Head of Sales, Environmental Technology: "Spare parts take an age to reach the Antarctic. So it pays to make reliability a top priority."

Project manager Jürgen Lohkamp believes the design of the waste heat exchangers is a good technical solution. Small and compact, they help to optimise the use of space in the Antarctic Station.

The new Antarctic station and the UHPS will be set up between December 2007 and March 2008. The new research station will be manned and commissioned in the 2008/2009 season.

UHPS technical data

Engine: 4x Scania DC9 65 A
Thermal capacity: 180 kWth per engine
Electrical capacity: 160 kWel per engine
Fuel: Polar diesel

Neumayer III

The new Alfred Wegener Institute Research Station for Polar and Oceanic Research (AWI) is 68 meters long and more than 29 meters high. A special feature is the platform, which extends 6 meters above the ice surface supported by 16 hydraulic pillars. The station is operated year-round and houses 12 laboratories spread over a 210 m² area. The 15 rooms in the living quarters provide sleeping accommodation for 40, plus a large kitchen and even a sauna. The station is scheduled to remain in operation for around 30 years.

Neumayer III is located not on the Antarctic landmass but on the Ekström Ice Shelf in Atka Bay, on the most north-easterly point of the Weddell Sea. The exact coordinates are: 70°39°S, 08°15°W.

More info about Neumayer on AWI (Alfred-Wegener-Institut)

Location of Neumayer on Google maps

Live webcam at Neumayer polar station

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