In this paper we present the first results of the development of an on-line model-based decision support tool, also known as the "route planner for gas transport". The route planner is an on-line tool that advises dispatchers on how to minimise operational costs while maintaining security of supply. The tool consists of a model of the Dutch gas transport network that can be loaded with actual network status and forecasts for upcoming 24 hours. The output is the cost optimal use of compression, nitrogen ballasting and supply flexibility for network balancing i.e. the most cost effective route gas can take through the Gasunie network to meet end-user demand. The non-linear dynamics in the network model are handled via a successive approximation approach. Starting with an initial seed, based on the actual network state in combination with the last accepted dispatching plan, a linear transport model is solved iteratively until sufficient convergence is achieved. Important milestone of the route planner development has been the demonstration of "apparent intelligence", an essential feature of any decision support tool. By presenting the route planner with dilemma's that could occur in practice and rating the proposed solution with experts, we established that the route planner displays "common sense". Moreover, the first results indicate that a cost reduction of 5 to 10 % is feasible.
With the unbundling of the integrated company Gasunie in 2005 in the trading company GasTerra and the transport company Gasunie, the day-to-day gas dispatching process has become considerably more complex. The network is now open to a much larger number of shippers and gas brought in to the network can be traded on the TTF spot market. In the mean time indigenous supply flexibility has decreased, new pipelines, LNG terminals, storages come on-line and energy prices have doubled. The challenge for the transport company Gasunie is to reduce costs for compression, gas quality conversion and gas supply flexibility in this new market environment in order to maintain profit margins. Gasunie Engineering & Technology is investigating the use of an on-line model-based decision support tool for gas dispatching, also known as the "route planner for gas transport". The task of the route planner is to provide real time information on the most cost effective manner to operate the gas transport network in the upcoming 24 hours. The name "route planner" was chosen for two reasons:
the purpose of the tool is to find optimal routes for gas through the transport network and
to provide a useful metaphor for establishing the desired functionalities of the tool.