Designers Predict a Bright Future
By T.D. Statton, Bechtel Power Co.
As power plant designers and builders, we at Bechtel see a bright future for our industry. The demand for electricity will continue to grow, and the need for new plants will increase accordingly. But companies that develop and supply these plants must adapt to new ways of doing business if they expect to see the dawn of this `new age.`
Several factors will have a profound effect on the generation and use of electricity in future years. Instant communications now reach all corners of the globe, making people everywhere aspire to a higher standard of living. The economic surge needed to satisfy these appetites will, in turn, be fed by a network of suppliers who are themselves restructuring to serve global markets, unimpeded by past nationalistic barriers to trade.
The strong correlation between economic progress and the growing demand for electricity is well recognized. A ready supply of affordable electricity is a necessary underpinning for any economic expansion. As economies advance and jobs increase, electric demand grows geometrically, fueled by an ever-improving quality of life.
Coupled with increasing demand is the worldwide trend toward privatization of the generation industry. The reasons may vary in different parts of the world, but the effect is the same–companies are battling intensely for the right to build or purchase generating facilities. Those companies, like the industry they serve, are themselves in a period of transition. Once a closed, monopolistic group of owners in a predominately services-based market, they are, thanks to competitive forces, being driven steadily toward a product-based structure.
The downward cost pressures in that product-based structure are enormous, even today, and extend through the entire supply chain. In the design-build arena, the most effective means of reducing cost is in the early design phase. Bechtel`s response to this challenge is PowerLine, a family of standard, optimized designs for fossil plants. PowerLine eliminates the inefficiencies of custom designs by combining the economies of mass production with the flexibility needed by individual plants and owners. At the same time, however, owners are looking to contractors who can take complete responsibility for all phases of a project. The successful contractors will be those who provide the entire range of finance-design-build services and package them as a unified `product.` The contractor`s ability to deliver this product, in the form of a low-cost, efficient and highly reliable power plant, will be the key customer value; doing it at
the most competitive price will be the differentiator.
The core functions of engineering, procurement and construction will continue to define the design-build process and will continue to determine the contractor`s costs. Automation will be the key to reduc-ing costs in each of these areas, although in different ways.
In future years, design standardi-zation will be increasingly important to reducing engineering costs, although absolute replication of an entire plant will seldom, if ever, be possible. Automated design tools will, however, allow rapid integration of project-specific data with information from standard designs.
At its heart, the design process is information management. In the past, design costs were driven by the time required for, and the efficiency of, the communication and exchange of information. Today, future global communications networks, from internal systems to external devices such as the Internet, permit instant access to information from all sources. Advances in the technology of information exchange are breaking down the remaining barriers of protocol, and total access to all sources of data is becoming available on a real-time basis. The ability to manage this tremendous new capability will be the greatest single factor in determining the success of companies in the future.
In the same fashion, the procurement and construction functions are being optimized through complete integration with the information management system of the design database. This integration, coupled with communications capabilities afforded by global networks, is enabling access to low-cost sources of equipment and materials worldwide and ensuring accuracy and timeliness of supply. Virtual reality technologies are permitting construction forces in the field to completely visualize and plan each step of the construction process for maximum efficiency.
All of this is occurring against a backdrop of ever-advancing automation technologies. To remain competitive, the successful contractors of tomorrow must rely on automation systems that are flexible and adaptable to technological advances originating elsewhere in the industry. Isolation and self-reliance will be sure steps to obsolescence.
Bechtel`s solution to the challenges of successful information management is called ProjectWorks, a collection of applications built on an architecture that facilitates the exchange of information among parties across wide networks. ProjectWorks also allows integration of third-party software and is configured to capitalize on automation advances from anywhere in the industry.
ProjectWorks is the enabling technology behind PowerLine. By capitalizing on the speed and agility of ProjectWorks` automated design tools, PowerLine can rapidly adjust standard designs to fit project-specific requirements. PowerLine and ProjectWorks together provide a formidable capability to meet the needs of tomorrow`s power market.
A ready supply of affordable electricity is a necessary underpinning for any economic expansion.
To remain competitive, the successful contractors of tomorrow must rely on automation systems that are flexible and adaptable to technology advances originating elsewhere in the industry. Isolation and self-reliance will be sure steps to obsolescence.
T.D. (Tim) Statton is Bechtel Power Co.`s president and Bechtel Corp.`s senior vice president. As president, with headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md., Statton has primary global responsibility for all fossil and nuclear activities. He was named to that position in January 1996.
Statton joined Bechtel in 1972 as an assistant cost and trend engineer. His progressively responsible assignments have included executive assistant to Bechtel Group Inc.`s president Riley Bechtel, Bechtel Enterprises managing director, Bechtel Power`s U.S. business development activities manager and manager of several turnkey power plant projects. He was named senior vice president in 1992 and manager of Bechtel Power`s fossil business line in 1993.
Statton holds a bachelor`s of science degree from Juaniata College and a degree in mechanical engineering from San Francisco State University.