At the 2018 Ovation Users’ Group Conference, Emerson’ Brett Benson discussed the challenge of operating multiple plants with reduced staff levels and how centralized control for single or multiple plant sites is a viable solution.
The latest developments in communication technology coupled with modern control hardware provides utilities the ability to monitor, analyze alarms and control their plants, remotely, from a centralized location.
In the presentation Brett highlighted a recent project using a centralized control architecture that provided the plant with the ability to remotely operate and monitor four combustion turbines. He shared an overview of the hardware and software required to perform these tasks and described a future expansion of this remote operation capabilities.
Brett opened describing remote start versus remote operations. Remote start provides basic start/stop functionality with limited visibility and diagnostics if the start failed. Remote operation provides full operating capabilities and authority. It has enhanced troubleshooting and no personnel had to be dispatched unless problems arose.
He described the Ovation system as the backbone to address operations, maintenance & reliability tasks, and compliance reporting and incident response. Remote site communications are typically T1 leased lines, microwave, fiber, 5G or Internet WAN/LAN.
Brett shared a case study where a customer had issues with limited staff to operate all the remote sites and respond to dispatch requests in a timely manner. One remote site had 4 large turbines with 3000 analog and 6000+ discrete I/O. The first phase to bring this I/O data to the central Ovation system located in a command center via OPC Data Access (DA). The second phase is connecting directly with the existing turbine controller.
The system performed pre-start checks with the PLC-based balance of plant (BOP) checks and auxiliaries—fuel skids, hydraulic pumps, inlet chillers/foggers/evap coolers, and checks of control valves.
The system is exercised on a periodic basis to identify system or component issues. This testing is automatic and scheduled, or operator initiated.
This project also identified the need to add wireless temperature, pressure, flow, vibration or sound (for identifying blade rub conditions). These additional measurements were to help improve reliable operations and predict conditions that may lead to an outage condition. Wireless cameras also provided remote visual inspections such as leak conditions.
Brett closed by describing advanced pattern recognition, a machine-learning technology, which can help detect a failure condition in advance to plan a scheduled outage instead of a forced outage.
These technologies help improve reliability in order for operators to manage the turbines remotely, but can’t replace personnel needing to come on site to address unit trips, component failures, failures to start, etc.
Update: My original words were confusing suggesting machine learning might be operating these remote turbine generators.They help to identify problems early to help avoid forced outages.