Creating Belgium’s high-voltage highway for the future

Lamifil supplied 260 km of AAAC UHC (Ultra-High Conductivity) overhead conductors for a vital and unique backbone upgrade of Belgium’s national grid.

Belgium’s national grid operator Elia is continuously developing its high-voltage grid system or ‘backbone’ to support the energy transition and increase interconnectivity within the European grid network. One of the key high-voltage development projects in this decade is Brabo.

This paramount and unique line upgrade involved a complete overhaul of the 150kV line to a 380 kV high capacity overhead infrastructure around the Port of Antwerp, over a total length of 19 km. Creating one of Belgium’s major energy grid highways, the project will shore up Belgium’s electricity grid at a local, national and international level. Lamifil was selected to provide AAAC UHC Ultra-High Conductivity overhead conductors for Brabo II, the second and a crucial project phase that closes the 380kV loop around the Port.

A growing Port, interconnections and renewable energy

Locally, the Brabo project will increase the grid’s supply capacity and respond to growing electricity demand from the Port of Antwerp, Europe’s second largest port, and Antwerp’s petrochemical industry, the second largest cluster in the world. The project, in fact, was named after the local legendary folklore figure which is also the official symbol of the city of Antwerp. Since the last major investments in the high-voltage grid in and around the Port date from the 1970s, it was necessary to upgrade the high-voltage line. Increasing the overall capacity and enabling more and new production entities to connect to the grid, Brabo will secure uninterrupted energy supply which is vital for the Port’s continued growth.

At a national and international level, the project will upgrade Belgium’s north-south axis and bolster Europe’s network of international interconnections. This will improve international trade opportunities and reduce reliance on Belgian generating facilities, also in view of plans to close down nuclear plants in the future. Upon completion of Brabo, Elia will be able to import up to 20% more electricity from the Netherlands to the Belgian high-voltage grid.

Last but not least, Brabo will allow Elia to manage renewable energy generation and integration better. Renewable energy increases flows of electricity on the power grid and the Brabo upgrade will make it easier to stagger and transmit these flows in the future.

Choosing the most efficient conductor for the job

The Brabo project, which consists of three phases, kicked off in 2013 and is due to commission by the end of 2024. The first phase (Brabo I), the upgrade of the high-voltage line between Doel and Zandvliet to 380 kV, was completed in 2016 and did not require new tower infrastructure or conductors.

The second project phase (Brabo II) comprised the full-fledged upgrade of the Zandvliet-Lillo-Liefkenshoek connection, involving some 300 workers and 10 subcontractors. The existing 150 kV high-voltage line was upgraded to a 380 kV line on the right bank of the River Scheldt. The 380 kV line follows the current route along the A12 motorway between the high-voltage substations at Zandvliet and Lillo. A new 380 kV high-voltage line had to be built, crossing the River Scheldt to the left bank where it connects to an existing 380 kV line (Doel-Mercator).
Next to an entirely new tower infrastructure, the Brabo II project required a total of 260 km new overhead conductors to be installed in a twin bundle configuration. Elia awarded the contract to Lamifil after a Total-Cost-of-Ownership evaluation, taking various elements into account, including conductivity and cost efficiency.

“We chose the AAAC 928-3Z UHC conductors from Lamifil for a number of reasons, including superior efficiency and aerodynamic properties. The fact that Elia and its contractors are familiar with this type of conductor, offers an important benefit with regards to installation efficiency and safety,” says Sam Roels, Project Leader Overhead Lines at Elia.

Lamifil AAAC-Z 928-3Z UHC conductors offer a number of important advantages compared to other conductor types. First of all, they improve the efficiency of the overhead line, thus effectively reducing operational expenses. Ultra-High Conductivity AlMgSi alloy conductors are probably the most efficient overhead conductors available today. Thanks to the unique properties of the alloy used, AAAC UHC conductors operate cooler and more efficiently compared to conventional AAAC conductors. They perform dramatically better than common ACSR conductors offering up to 25% more power transfer capacity and up to 50% reduced line losses.

Aerodynamic properties allow for a leaner tower design

58 new towers had to be constructed for Brabo II. The Z-shaped wire conductor design allows Elia to optimise tower design, hence reducing capital expenses on the infrastructure. Z-shaped wires effectively reduce the maximum load on the towers thanks to the unique aerodynamic properties without giving in on safety.

“As the towers had to be renewed, we were able to build them according to the conductor choice. As a matter of fact, the Brabo project tower designs form the basis for a new tower standard that we are developing for the future,” Sam Roels adds.

“Elia understands that a mere comparison based on prices is not enough and that other considerations have to be made to achieve their goals. In addition, a smart conductor choice leads to important cost savings during the life time of the overhead line, “ says Johan Alfasten, Strategic lead for the overhead conductor business at Lamifil.

The unique aerodynamic properties of z-shaped wires can be offered with other conductor types such as ACCC® Conductor. In total Lamifil has already supplied about 9000km of overhead conductors with z-shaped wires around the world. More than 2000km of ACCC® Conductor have been manufactured with z-shaped, allowing line designers to put up even more aluminum on the existing towers.

Preparing for the final phase

The Brabo project is entering a third and final phase in 2021. This includes modernising the existing 150 kV 19km line from Liefkenshoek (Beveren) to Mercator (Kruibeke) and upgrading it to 380 kV, via the Kallo high-voltage substation, which is the entry point for energy transmission land inwards. Elia submitted all regional permits and waits for the approval of the Flemish authorities to start with this phase of the project.
The demolition of the 150kV line is planned to start by the end of 2022, after which new towers and conductors will be installed. Once commissioned by the end of 2024, this final chapter of the Brabo project will enhance electricity transmission within Belgium and facilitate power exchange with the Netherlands.

A longstanding commitment to the Belgian grid

Since the first delivery of conductors for the Belgian grid, well back in the previous century, Lamifil has partnered with Elia on many occasions to help develop the Belgian energy grid and prepare it for the future.
From tackling project challenges, custom conductor design, manufacturing and testing, to logistics and on site services, Lamifil is committed to provide added value to customers such as Elia. Lamifil is therefore very proud to contribute to the Brabo project, which will prove to be a paramount accomplishment to prepare the Belgian high-voltage grid for the future.


Some interesting facts & figures about Brabo II

  • The towers built for the river Scheldt crossing are 192 m high, the tallest in the Benelux and the third tallest in Europe.
  • 58 new pylons were constructed
  • 260km AAAC UHC overhead conductors were used.
  • ACCC UHC conductors offer up to 25% more power transfer capacity and up to 50% reduced line losses.