Improving Reliability in Power Generation: A Competitive Advantage

Douglas Morris Director of Marketing, Mining & Power Industries

Douglas Morris
Director of Marketing, Mining & Power Industries

Author: Douglas Morris

Recently, the consulting arm of Black & Veatch published its annual strategic directions report for the US utility industry. In 2014 “reliability” was again identified as the top industry concern. This report discusses how technology will play an important role for utilities as they look to improve upon asset reliability.

The industry has always had some play with this discipline; in fact, most plants had staffs dedicated to the practice of reliability. As utilities cut back staffing over time, though, many of these departments disappeared and the focus was suddenly absent. When most fossil plants ran as originally intended, this didn’t pose a large problem. Times have changed and now with the growing number of renewables along with gas plants being cycled on a regular basis, former baseload plants are increasingly running in load following mode, subjecting these units to greater thermal cycling and more stress on mechanical equipment.

As the B&V report states, technology can be the tool that helps utilities achieve better reliability. Per the report:

…new data collection and performance monitoring technologies will assist utility operators in better understanding potential points for failure and managing risk by improving visibility into asset condition and performance.

Tucson-Power-ReliabilityWebThere are already sites that have used technology to improve plant reliability and they are reaping the benefits.

Tucson Electric Power (TEP), Springerville Generating Station, is one such utility. Gary Gardner of TEP wrote an article published on reliabilityweb.com which states:

TEP relies on technology with high resolution, accurate data collection and advanced diagnostics capabilities.

In 2012, Gary and his predictive maintenance team, along with the use of advanced technology, helped the company avoid more than $1M in maintenance and replacement costs.

So as utilities embrace the recent rebirth of reliability, many will likely follow the path of TEP. Those that do and invest in proper technology for condition monitoring will reap the rewards of increased plant availability and reduced operating and maintenance (O&M) costs.

From Jim: You can connect and interact with other Power industry and reliability professionals in the Power and Asset Optimization, Maintenance and Reliability tracks of the Emerson Exchange 365 community