Engineering Hero: Simulating Sustainable Energy Solutions
December 05, 2023
Welcome to the sixth installment of Engineering Heroes, sponsored by Wind River, where we take a closer look at the lives of unsung heroes in the world of engineering whose work impacts uncountable lives across the globe. See the bottom of the article for additional content on Anton Riström and our other heroes.
When Anton Riström was growing up in a Swedish town of 5,000 people, he wanted to be a pilot.
His father was a pilot in the Swedish Air Force who later transitioned into commercial flying, and for a time, his mother was a flight attendant. When his parents flew together, it became necessary for Anton and his sister to come along.
But Anton also had habit of taking things apart, not only to investigate their inner workings, but also to see if he’d be able to put them back together properly — often, he couldn’t. It should come as little surprise that Anton later blended these two passions in his pursuit of aerospace engineering.
Today, he manages a small team at Aker Solutions that specializes in utilizing computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to simulate sustainable global energy solutions like subsea compression.
Simulating Sustainable Energy
Simulations were nothing new to Anton when he began his career in 2019; while he doesn’t have much time for it anymore, he put in plenty of hours with the Microsoft Flight Simulator, and still enjoys having it on autopilot during his morning coffee. Later in his professional life, he began developing his own simulations to examine wing profiles that could optimize or reduce a plane’s fuel consumption.
This expertise led him to Aker Solutions where he and his team use CFD — a combination of physics, applied mathematics, and computational software that helps create a visual representation of how liquid or gas flows and how it affects objects it flows past — to digitally model building-sized cooling chambers for gas obtained from subsea compression.
As the planet’s climate continues to change, efforts to find new energy sources are ramping up, and one of those sources is the natural gas found in seabeds. One method of collecting that gas is subsea compression, which requires placing compressors on the ocean floor that increase pressure to compromise the gas and allow it to flow through pipes with less resistance.
This compression process heats up the natural gas, so Anton and his team needed to develop coolers to prevent downstream system damage. Coolers for big projects like the 2015 Åsgard Subsea Compression Project can be around 17 feet tall — quite a task for a system that lives at the bottom of the ocean. This is where the CFD simulations came in.
Anton and his team essentially used their experience with CFD to develop digital twins of the coolers so they could manipulate parameters such as insulation levels to find the most optimal process for cooling the gas to the correct temperature, all without the financial and time constraints of testing physical models.
“We get to go into the labs and have test setups where we can actually run experiments that we can then validate with our CFD modeling,” says Anton. “And that gives us the confidence that we need to use this in a real-life project, which is awesome.”
The Åsgard system is in place in the Norwegian Sea and, according to Anton, has been working flawlessly since 2015. Anton and his team at Aker Solutions are currently working on another subsea project, this one to be operated primarily by Chevron Australia. The Jansz-Io Compression Project is expected to be installed off the coast of Australia in 2025.
Virtual modeling technologies are often used in smart industrial settings, but the work Anton is doing with Aker Solutions and their various partners highlights the scale of use cases in which digital twins can be applied. Countries around the world are creating and implementing legislation to reduce emissions, and a big piece of that relies on finding alternative sustainable and affordable energy sources.
Anton’s use of CFD to digitally simulate components of these vast subsea compression projects has the power to conserve key resources during the world’s journey to net-zero emissions.
Editor's Note: For more Engineering Hero content, check out the links below.
Daire McNamara, Director and Firmware Engineer, Emdalo Technologies:
Nandini Kappiah, Senior Director of Software Engineering, Google:
Valentyn Hlukhotskyy, Senior Java Software Engineer, Euristiq:
Levi Zima, RF Microwave Engineer:
Samer Mabrouk, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Georgia Institute of Technology:
Anton Riström, Department Manager, Aker Solutions:
Dr. Karisa Schreck, Assistant Professor of neurology, oncology, and neurosurgery & Co-Director of BRAF Brain Tumor Center, Johns Hopkins: