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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 feasibility problem. The first phase consists of four distinct algorithms applying linear, and methods for complementarity constraints to compute possible settings for the discrete decisions. The second phase employs a precise continuous programming model of the gas network. Using this setup, we are able to compute high quality solutions to real-world industrial instances that are significantly larger than networks that have appeared in the mathematical programming literature before.

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.

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.

Today's gas markets demand more flexibility from the network operators which in turn have to invest into their network infrastructure. As these investments are very cost-intensive and long-living, network extensions should not only focus on one bottleneck scenario, but should increase the flexibility to fulfill different demand scenarios. We formulate a model for the network extension problem for multiple demand scenarios and propose a scenario decomposition. We solve MINLP single-scenario sub-problems and obtain valid bounds even without solving them to optimality. Heuristics prove capable of improving the initial solutions substantially. Results of computational experiments are presented.

The amazing success of computational mathematical optimization over the last decades has been driven more by insights into mathematical structures than by the advance of computing technology. In this vein, we address applications, where nonconvexity in the model poses principal difficulties.
This paper summarizes the dissertation of Jonas Schweiger for the occasion of the GOR dissertation award 2018. We focus on the work on non-convex quadratic programs and show how problem specific structure can be used to obtain tight relaxations and speed up Branch&Bound methods. Both a classic general QP and the Pooling Problem as an important practical application serve as showcases.

Exploiting structure in non-convex quadratic optimization and gas network planning under uncertainty
(2017)

The amazing success of computational mathematical optimization over
the last decades has been driven more by insights into mathematical
structures than by the advance of computing technology. In this vein,
we address applications, where nonconvexity in the model and
uncertainty in the data pose principal difficulties.
The first part of the thesis deals with non-convex quadratic programs.
Branch&Bound methods for this problem class depend on tight
relaxations. We contribute in several ways: First, we establish a new
way to handle missing linearization variables in the well-known
Reformulation-Linearization-Technique (RLT). This is implemented
into the commercial software CPLEX. Second, we study the optimization
of a quadratic objective over the standard simplex or a knapsack
constraint. These basic structures appear as part of many complex
models. Exploiting connections to the maximum clique problem and RLT,
we derive new valid inequalities. Using exact and heuristic separation
methods, we demonstrate the impact of the new inequalities on the
relaxation and the global optimization of these problems. Third, we
strengthen the state-of-the-art relaxation for the pooling problem, a
well-known non-convex quadratic problem, which is, for example,
relevant in the petrochemical industry. We propose a novel relaxation
that captures the essential non-convex structure of the problem but is
small enough for an in-depth study. We provide a complete inner
description in terms of the extreme points as well as an outer
description in terms of inequalities defining its convex hull (which
is not a polyhedron). We show that the resulting valid convex
inequalities significantly strengthen the standard relaxation of the
pooling problem.
The second part of this thesis focuses on a common challenge in real
world applications, namely, the uncertainty entailed in the input
data.
We study the extension of a gas transport network, e.g., from our
project partner Open Grid Europe GmbH.
For a single scenario this maps to a challenging non-convex MINLP.
As the future transport patterns are highly uncertain, we propose a
robust model to best prepare the network operator for an array of
scenarios.
We develop a custom decomposition approach that makes use of the
hierarchical structure of network extensions and the loose coupling
between the scenarios.
The algorithm used the single-scenario problem as black-box subproblem
allowing the generalization of our approach to problems with the same
structure.
The scenario-expanded version of this problem is out of reach for
today's general-purpose MINLP solvers.
Yet our approach provides primal and dual bounds for instances with up
to 256 scenarios and solves many of them to optimality.
Extensive computational studies show the impact of our work.

A Decomposition Approach for Optimal Gas Network Extension with a Finite Set of Demand Scenarios
(2018)

Today's gas markets demand more flexibility from the network
operators which in turn have to invest into their network
infrastructure. As these investments are very cost-intensive and
long-living, network extensions should not only focus on a single
bottleneck scenario, but should increase the flexibility to fulfill
different demand scenarios. In this work, we formulate a model for
the network extension problem for multiple demand scenarios and
propose a scenario decomposition in order to solve the arising
challenging optimization tasks. In fact, each subproblem
consists of a mixed-integer nonlinear optimization problem (MINLP).
Valid bounds on the objective value are derived even
without solving the subproblems to optimality. Furthermore, we
develop heuristics that prove capable of improving the initial
solutions substantially. Results of computational experiments on
realistic network topologies are presented. It turns out that our
method is able to solve these challenging instances to optimality
within a reasonable amount of time.

We investigate new convex relaxations for the pooling problem, a classic nonconvex production planning problem in which products are mixed in intermediate pools in order to meet quality targets at their destinations. In this technical report, we characterize the extreme points of the convex hull of our non-convex set, and show that they are not finite, i.e., the convex hull is not polyhedral. This analysis was used to derive valid nonlinear convex inequalities and show that, for a specific case, they characterize the convex hull of our set. The new valid inequalities and computational results are presented in ZIB Report 18-12.

We investigate new convex relaxations for the pooling problem, a classic nonconvex production planning problem in which input materials are mixed in intermediate pools, with the outputs of these pools further mixed to make output products meeting given attribute percentage requirements. Our relaxations are derived by considering a set which arises from the formulation by considering a single product, a single attibute, and a single pool. The convex hull of the resulting nonconvex set is not polyhedral. We derive valid linear and convex nonlinear inequalities for the convex hull, and demonstrate that different subsets of these inequalities define the convex hull of the nonconvex set in three cases determined by the parameters of the set. Computational results on literature instances and newly created larger test instances demonstrate that the inequalities can significantly strengthen the convex relaxation of the pq-formulation of the pooling problem, which is the relaxation known to have the strongest bound.

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.