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The recently imposed new gas market liberalization rules in Germany lead to a change of business of gas network operators.
While previously network operator and gas vendor where united, they were forced to split up into independent companies.
The network has to be open to any other gas trader at the same conditions, and free network capacities have to be identified and publicly offered in a non-discriminatory way.
We show that these new paradigms lead to new and challenging mathematical optimization problems.
In order to solve them and to provide meaningful results for practice, all aspects of the underlying problems, such as combinatorics, stochasticity, uncertainty, and nonlinearity, have to be addressed.
With such special-tailored solvers, free network capacities and topological network extensions can, for instance, be determined.

Die mittel- und längerfristige Planung für den Gastransport hat sich durch
Änderungen in den regulatorischen Rahmenbedingungen stark verkompliziert.
Kernpunkt ist die Trennung von Gashandel und -transport. Dieser Artikel
diskutiert die hieraus resultierenden mathematischen Planungsprobleme,
welche als Validierung von Nominierungen und Buchungen, Bestimmung der
technischen Kapazität und Topologieplanung bezeichnet werden. Diese
mathematischen Optimierungsprobleme werden vorgestellt und Lösungsansätze
skizziert.

The recently imposed new gas market liberalization rules in Germany lead to a change of business of gas network operators. While previously network operator and gas vendor were united, they were forced to split up into independent companies. The network has to be open to any other gas trader at the same conditions, and free network capacities have to be identified and publicly offered in a non-discriminatory way. We discuss how these changing paradigms lead to new and challenging mathematical optimization problems. This includes the validation of nominations, that asks for the decision if the network’s capacity is sufficient to transport a specific amount of flow, the verification of booked capacities and the detection of available freely allocable capacities, and the topological extension of the network with new pipelines or compressors in order to increase its capacity. In order to solve each of these problems and to provide meaningful results for the practice, a mixture of different mathematical aspects have to be addressed, such as combinatorics, stochasticity, uncertainty, and nonlinearity. Currently, no numerical solver is available that can deal with such blended problems out-of-the-box. The main goal of our research is to develop such a solver, that moreover is able to solve instances of realistic size. In this article, we describe the main ingredients of our prototypical software implementations.

Gas distribution networks are complex structures that consist of passive pipes, and active, controllable elements such as valves and compressors. Controlling such network means to find a suitable setting for all active components such that a nominated amount of gas can be transmitted from entries to exits through the network, without violating physical or operational constraints. The control of a large-scale gas network is a challenging task from a practical point of view. In most companies the actual controlling process is supported by means of computer software that is able to simulate the flow of the gas. However, the active settings have to be set manually within such simulation software. The solution quality thus depends on the experience of a human planner. When the gas network is insufficient for the transport then topology extensions come into play. Here a set of new pipes or active elements is determined such that the extended network admits a feasible control again. The question again is how to select these extensions and where to place them such that the total extension costs are minimal. Industrial practice is again to use the same simulation software, determine extensions by experience, add them to the virtual network, and then try to find a feasible control of the active elements. The validity of this approach now depends even more on the human planner. Another weakness of this manual simulation-based approach is that it cannot establish infeasibility of a certain gas nomination, unless all settings of the active elements are tried. Moreover, it is impossible to find a cost-optimal network extension in this way. In order to overcome these shortcomings of the manual planning approach we present a new approach, rigorously based on mathematical optimization. Hereto we describe a model for finding feasible controls and then extend this model such that topology extensions can additionally and simultaneously be covered. Numerical results for real-world instances are presented and discussed.

Since 2005, the gas market in the European Union is liberalized and the trading of natural gas is decoupled from its transport. The transport is done by so-called transmissions system operators or TSOs. The market model established by the European Union views the gas transmission network as a black box, providing shippers (gas traders and consumers) the opportunity to transport gas from any entry to any exit. TSOs are required to offer maximum independent capacities at each entry and exit such that the resulting gas flows can be realized by the network without compromising security of supply. Therefore, evaluating the available transport capacities is extremely important to the TSOs.
This paper gives an overview of the toolset for evaluating gas network capacities that has been developed within the ForNe project, a joint research project of seven research partners initiated by Open Grid Europe, Germany's biggest TSO. While most of the relevant mathematics is described in the book "Evaluating Gas Network Capacities", this article sketches the system as a whole, describes some developments that have taken place recently, and gives some details about the current implementation.

In 2005 the European Union liberalized the gas market with a disruptive change and decoupled trading of natural gas from its transport. The gas is now transported by independent so-called transmissions system operators or TSOs. The market model established by the European Union views the gas transmission network as a black box, providing shippers (gas traders and consumers) the opportunity to transport gas from any entry to any exit. TSOs are required to offer the maximum possible capacities at each entry and exit such that any resulting gas flow can be realized by the network. The revenue from selling these capacities more than one billion Euro in Germany alone, but overestimating the capacity might compromise the security of supply. Therefore, evaluating the available transport capacities is extremely important to the TSOs.
This is a report on a large project in mathematical optimization, set out to develop a new toolset for evaluating gas network capacities. The goals and the challenges as they occurred in the project are described, as well as the developments and design decisions taken to meet the requirements.

SCIP is a solver for a wide variety of mathematical optimization problems. It is written in C and extendable due to its plug-in based design. However, dealing with all C specifics when extending SCIP can be detrimental to development and testing of new ideas. This paper attempts to provide a remedy by introducing PySCIPOpt, a Python interface to SCIP that enables users to write new SCIP code entirely in Python. We demonstrate how to intuitively model mixed-integer linear and quadratic optimization problems and moreover provide examples on how new Python plug-ins can be added to SCIP.

The SCIP Optimization Suite is a software toolbox for generating and solving various classes of mathematical optimization problems. Its major components are the modeling language ZIMPL, the linear programming solver SoPlex, the constraint integer programming framework and mixed-integer linear and nonlinear programming solver SCIP, the UG framework for parallelization of branch-and-bound-based solvers, and the generic branch-cut-and-price solver GCG. It has been used in many applications from both academia and industry and is one of the leading non-commercial solvers.
This paper highlights the new features of version 3.2 of the SCIP Optimization Suite. Version 3.2 was released in July 2015. This release comes with new presolving steps, primal heuristics, and branching rules within SCIP. In addition, version 3.2 includes a reoptimization feature and improved handling of quadratic constraints and special ordered sets. SoPlex can now solve LPs exactly over the rational number and performance improvements have been achieved by exploiting sparsity in more situations. UG has been tested successfully on 80,000 cores. A major new feature of UG is the functionality to parallelize a customized SCIP solver. GCG has been enhanced with a new separator, new primal heuristics, and improved column management. Finally, new and improved extensions of SCIP are presented, namely solvers for multi-criteria optimization, Steiner tree problems, and mixed-integer semidefinite programs.

In this article we investigate methods to solve a fundamental task in gas transportation, namely the validation of nomination problem: Given a gas transmission network consisting of passive pipelines and active, controllable elements and given an amount of gas at every entry and exit point of the network, find operational settings for all active elements such that there exists a network state meeting all physical, technical, and legal constraints.
We describe a two-stage approach to solve the resulting complex and numerically difficult mixed-integer non-convex nonlinear feasibility problem. The first phase consists of four distinct algorithms facilitating mixed-integer linear, mixed-integer nonlinear, reduced nonlinear, and complementarity constrained methods to compute possible settings for the discrete decisions. The second phase employs a precise continuous nonlinear programming model of the gas network. Using this setup, we are able to compute high quality solutions to real-world industrial instances whose size is significantly larger than networks that have appeared in the literature previously.