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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.

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.

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.

The different approaches to solve the validation of nomination problem presented in the previous chapters are evaluated computationally in this chapter. Each approach is analyzed individually, as well as the complete solvers for these problems. We demonstrate that the presented approaches can successfully solve large-scale real-world instances.

We propose an approach to solve the validation of nominations problem using mixed-integer nonlinear programming (MINLP) methods. Our approach handles both the discrete settings and the nonlinear aspects of gas physics. Our main contribution is an innovative coupling of mixed-integer (linear) programming (MILP) methods with nonlinear programming (NLP) that exploits the special structure of a suitable approximation of gas physics, resulting in a global optimization method for this type of problem.

We present a novel heuristic to identify feasible solutions of a mixed-integer nonlinear programming problem arising in natural gas transportation: the selection of new pipelines to enhance the network's capacity to a desired level in a cost-efficient way. We solve this problem in a linear programming based branch-and-cut approach, where we deal with the nonlinearities by linear outer approximation and spatial branching. At certain nodes of the branching tree, we compute a KKT point of a nonlinear relaxation. Based on the information from the KKT point we alter some of the binary variables in a locally promising way exploiting our problem-specific structure. On a test set of real-world instances, we are able to increase the chance of identifying feasible solutions by some order of magnitude compared to standard MINLP heuristics that are already built in the general-purpose MINLP solver SCIP.

We present a novel heuristic algorithm to identify feasible solutions of a mixed-integer nonlinear programming problem arising in natural gas transportation: the selection of new pipelines to enhance the network's capacity to a desired level in a cost-efficient way. We solve this problem in a linear programming based branch-and-cut approach, where we deal with the nonlinearities by linear outer approximation and spatial branching. At certain nodes of the branching tree, we compute a KKT point for a nonlinear relaxation. Based on the information from the KKT point we alter some of the integer variables in a locally promising way. We describe this heuristic for general MINLPs and then show how to tailor the heuristic to exploit our problem-specific structure. On a test set of real-world instances, we are able to increase the chance of identifying feasible solutions by some order of magnitude compared to standard MINLP heuristics that are already built in the general-purpose MINLP solver SCIP.