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How to optimise power plant performance?

Latest advancement and how to optimise power plant performance

Power plants are often considered as fatal for the environment as they emit huge amount of toxicants and they also consume huge amount of energy while generating power – but all these issues can be solved by using advanced technology for the power plants. Due to research and technological developments it is now possible to make optimum use of power plants. Even power producers have become highly competitive in terms of producing power and to be ahead in this race most of the power producers are opting for advanced power plants over outdated once as it gives good performance, helps in optimising the power plant performance, it reduces carbon emission, upgrades performance of combustion, improves plants electrical systems etc. To understand more this article will describe about the latest advancements.

Advancement in power plant performance
In today’s fast-paced utility industry, a power supplier are facing challenges from multiple directions and under pressure to improve their efficiency, to adhere to competitive pricing, and maintain responsible practices for environmental suitability, believes Asish Adhikari, Director, Industry Solutions, Schneider Electric India. Amid such challenges, the greatest threat to the growth and profitability of a company is a siloed organisation, resulting in performance gaps from – isolated data, inability to capture and share tacit knowledge, and failure to respond quickly to non-conformity events. He says, “With the advancements in digital technologies, these gaps can be mitigated by integrating assets and operational processes with a layer of intelligence, creating a widely-connected platform to support speedy delivery of meaningful information to the right person, at the right times, which ultimately improve productivity, agility, and efficiency of the organisation.” Therefore, power generation companies with the capabilities to effectively manage the exponential growth of data using advanced analytics, and connect its key assets – people, equipment and processes to achieve operational efficiency, stands to achieve strategic transformation and stay ahead of the curve.

Discussing on the advancement in the power plant performance Prashant Jain, Head – Power Generation Services, Siemens India claims, “Siemens has provided a solution to improve power-plant performance as well as meet the needs of the changing business environment. Solutions from Siemens deliver benefits such as technical minimum of 20 per cent, heat rate improvement up to 1800 Kcal/KWh, and improvement in TG line efficiency up to 3 per cent, increased power output, reduction in auxiliary consumption and many more.”

He adds, “Siemens has always partnered with power plants in their pursuit of performance improvement. Customers have gained from the continuous improvements delivered by Siemens through R&D and industry competency gained over 150 years.” In the last two decades, the power market has gone through dynamic and huge changes like unprecedented growth of renewable energy, increase in distributed generation; supercritical power plants are now part of life, increase in fuel prices, etc, resulting in unprecedented challenges faced by power plants. “Siemens has always been there to provide solutions to power-plants,” says Jain.

“Modern day power plants incorporate automation of all major processes through enterprise-wide sophisticated control and monitoring equipment in tandem with an over-arching SCADA architecture, to optimise the power plant’s reliability, operating costs and output,” says Rajiv Kumar, Director – Marketing, ES – India, Eaton Power Quality Pvt Ltd.

Optimising power plant performance
Power plant performance is basically driven by two pillars of ‘operation of plant’ and ‘maintenance of plant’. Today, to get optimum output from a plant, the operations team faces challenges (posed by fluctuating renewable energy, increased distributed generation, efficient supercritical plants, fuel mix, etc.) like frequent changes in operation modes, cycling of plant, frequency control, technical minimum, fast ramp-up and ramp-down, etc. Further, such changes in the operation mode affect the power plant components in the form of increased stresses and hence their upkeep is equally important for plant reliability, pursued by maintenance. “Therefore, the challenges to maintenance is reliability of plant, availability of plant and, most important, operational safety for which they are continuously on their toes by constantly adjusting EOH counter to operational need and shift from predictive to prescriptive overhauls,” says Jain.

He adds, “These changes mean that operations and maintenance can no longer be independent functions. So the need is for advanced integrated solutions – integration of mechanical, automation and digitalisation, to improve overall plant performance. On the one hand, these solutions provide the operation team with the required flexibility to run the plant in optimum and the most efficient way, while on other hand empowers the maintenance team with the trends and analysis for moving to prescriptive overhauls which in turn will improve operational safety, reliability and availability of plant.”

Advanced technology available today as solutions for improving power plant performance varies from advanced metallurgy, improved engineering calculations, advance manufacturing processes like 3D printing, sensitive instrumentation, responsive controls, automation, data storage, Internet of Things, algorithms to analyse data and predict performance/events and many more. However, each power plant/unit itself has specific characteristics, meaning improvement of performance needs tailored solutions. “Such integrated solutions are no fantasies. These are available with Siemens have been realised and proven in several different power plants all around the world, and they summed up to great improvements regarding the load range, load flexibility and plant efficiency and in turn improved plant performance,” informs Jain.

Below is figure of one such implementation by Siemens:
Further Jain adds, “Lastly, the new developments and patents in other fields, for example in the concentrated solar power, waste-fired power plants, refineries, etc show, that the physical boundaries often are wider than the plant owners expect and putting more new problems in achieving best performance of the plant. New problems are a challenge, which can be solved by an experienced team with the right tools and experience, which Siemens have.”

Finally, as Siemens, not only do we provide solutions to support customer needs with proven records, but also continuously strive in its R&D efforts to keep customer units achieve better performance in changing environment.

Briefing on how to optimise a power plant Adhikari says, “The foundation of an optimised power plant is a connected organisation with a system that converges IT and OT, tightly integrating all functions and data points into a unified environment. With the captured information and processes mapped to a common platform, stakeholders are empowered to make early decisions and take an informed action, which ultimately extracts maximum value from the plant.”

Predictive performance management by Schneider Electric eliminates the informational silos ever-present in organisations to create a singular and collaborative ecosystem. The comprehensive solution focuses both on operations (the process) and predictive asset management (the equipment) to capture and analyse real-time data generated from the process, providing closed-loop tuning and management for higher asset performance and enhanced operations control. It adds contextualised dashboards, KPI management and decision management, all in a unified environment with a self-service graphical configuration interface. It provides enterprise fleet performance monitoring with the capability to compare asset performance to improve operational efficiencies.
Adhikari adds, “The solution leverages Avantis® PRiSM, adding predictive analytics functionality, which provides early warning notification and diagnosis of equipment issues. Coupled with complete operations management functionality. Predictive performance management helps asset-intensive organisations like the power industry reduce equipment downtime, increase reliability and improve performance while reducing operations and maintenance (O&M) expenditures. Predictive performance management puts power generation companies in control of the plant performance, using process digitisation to deliver the power of action and accountability to optimise growth of the plant.”

There is significant opportunity to optimise the performance of power plants – especially the older plants by upgrading the electrical infrastructure, believes Kumar. A major portion of power plant’s electrical loads tend to be motor loads due to the abundance of pumping equipment, compressors, fans and traditional lighting. He says, “By upgrading motor control of large and critical motors to Variable Frequency Drives that offer precise and energy-optimised speed control, and upgrading the Motor Control Centers and low voltage/medium voltage distribution panels to incorporate micro-processor-based protection relays and sophisticated electronic power monitoring, and energy-efficient lighting with smart-controls, the power plants can greatly increase reliability and performance.”

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