Instrumentation & Controls, O&M

CPV: New decade requires software savvy approach to asset management for power producers

The new decade presents the energy industry with a host of challenges. The increasing rate of energy consumption, the modernization of the electric grid, the record-setting demand for renewable energy sources, and the need for environmentally-responsible generation in a changing climate will require new and better modes of generation. Today’s power producers are tasked with operating more efficiently and ethically in order to best meet these challenges and maintain their competitiveness. 

 For energy companies, missteps in asset management can have extensive and costly consequences. Asset management is the lifeblood of their operations, through which they streamline production processes, control costs and ensure resources are being used responsibly. As the energy sector transforms to meet the challenges posed by an evolving landscape, asset managers should implement advanced technological approaches in order to sustain their plant’s value. 

 Software representation of assets and processes helps energy companies understand, predict, and optimize performance in order to achieve improved business outcomes. Energy companies should value assets from the earliest developmental stage through mature operation — but project assets require different services at different times, rendering human prediction an inefficient financial risk. 

 In years past, many plants used manual processes to manage their operations and output.  Spreadsheets with simplified calculations and other discrepancy-prone tools were sometimes used to estimate a project’s capacity. From the uploading of information to the running and distribution of reports, the management of these processes was susceptible to human error, leading to inaccuracies and increased potential for lost market revenues. Production planning solutions can shrink this margin of error while increasing process efficiencies and optimizing performance.

 Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) implemented GE production planning software to reliably estimate a plant’s capacity while improving process efficiencies. This software can accurately predict the plant’s output based on the ambient conditions using local weather forecasts and then auto-correct calculations should those conditions or source of the information change. This has helped us accurately predict day-ahead plant capacity, minimize the margin of error and capitalize on the market, all while reducing the risk of underselling energy.  Production planning automatically issues the reports that are consistently issued in a reliable manner to the proper distribution to those who rely on this information.  

 The incremental value of such technology is statistically evident, as companies have visibility to more capacity and improved productivity. Our productivity, for example, is valued today at approximately $200,000 per year for a 700-MW plant. 

 By implementing innovative production planning software, power plant operators can improve plant dispatch, generate more revenue with increased output all while reducing emissions. 

Another important tool energy companies can use to improve their asset management capabilities is the remote monitoring of plant equipment. Companies are accustomed to monitoring the focal part of the plant, like the combustion turbines, but rarely have systems in place to examine every piece of equipment; it’s unrealistic to expect operators and engineers to expend time doing so 24 hours per day, seven days per week on every piece of equipment. But through artificial intelligence and advanced pattern recognition, remote monitoring can identify potential issues in equipment health that most likely would go undetected until it’s too late, resulting in downtime and lost revenues. 

 Remote monitoring collects real-time data. Over time, patterns in this data establish the baseline standards for normal equipment operations. If the monitoring system detects irregularities in the pattern, it notifies plant operators and management team and suggests potential solutions before system failures occur. These insights and recommendations become more comprehensive with time. Proactive identification of issues, instead of reactionary measures, will better protect assets and improve reliability for both the short-term and long-term life of a plant. Companies receive warning emails as well as periodic PDF reports of this data, and follow up with phone calls to communicate new or ongoing differences in the equipment pattern. Remote monitoring is a cost-effective service — especially when trying to minimize factors that cause a plant to go offline, the cost of such technology justifies its value. By outsourcing remote monitoring, companies can avoid incurring the costs of building brick-and-mortar facilities or the development of a similar technology. 

Nick Rahn

 As the technological landscape updates and expands, the energy industry must match the demands of today’s market. Energy companies, however, needn’t sacrifice profitability while utilizing the most efficient modes of production. By applying new innovations in asset management, such as advanced production planning software and enhanced remote monitoring capabilities, companies will bolster profits and modernize the grid simultaneously for years to come.

About the author: Nick Rahn is the Senior Vice President of Asset Management for Competitive Power Ventures. CPV’s asset management oversees 9,300 MW of fossil including the gas-fired Woodbridge Energy Center in New Jersey (pictured at top) and renewable power generation projects in eight U.S. states.