Automating Power Generation Startup Sequences

by | Aug 12, 2019 | Industry, Power Generation

Plant staff at electrical power generating facilities are having to change the way they operate given the increasing amounts of intermittent renewable energy being added to the grid. More startup and shutdown cycles are being required to manage the constantly shifting energy supply to the grid.

In a Power magazine article, Automated Plant Startups Reduce Fixed and Fuel-Related Costs, Emerson’s Doug Morris highlights the importance moving beyond traditional manual startup procedures to improve reliability and efficiency in these demanding conditions.

While automation systems have been controlling power plants for a long time, Doug explains that plant personnel traditionally follow written procedures, and:

…operators typically adhere to a routine of making sure process conditions (permissive conditions) are met, then interact with the site’s automation system, and then proceed to the next step in the startup procedure. Lather, rinse, repeat. At some plants, operators will go through close to 200 manual acknowledgements with their controls as they start up.

Beyond just increased maintenance caused by more frequent equipment cycling:

…there is a large impact on the amount of fuel used during these frequent starts, ramps, and shutdowns.

This fuel use can vary greatly from one manual startup to the next. Doug notes that the solution is to work:

…with experienced operations teams to efficiently embed current operational best practices within the plant’s automation system. This approach does a couple of things: first, it helps capture and ensure operational best practices are used across the site and shift to shift; and second, it places the operations team in more of a supervisory role.

Startup sequences are created from these best practices that:

…optimize and streamline plant equipment starts by automating any manual control room operator actions in accordance with existing startup operating procedures.

From an energy efficiency standpoint:

…automated sequences can then be enabled for optimal load path starts to ensure consistent cycles with minimized fuel usage within the given process constraints.

Read the article for more on how automating these sequences also helps better manage abnormal situations, enable more supervisory proactive activities, and further optimize operational performance.

Visit the Power Generation section on for more technologies and solutions to help improve safety, reliability and efficiency. You can also connect and interact with other power industry reliability and efficiency experts in the Power group in the Emerson Exchange 365 community and/or at the Sep 23-27 Emerson Exchange conference in Nashville.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.

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