In an Emerson Exchange Americas Virtual Series industry forum, Power: Strategies for Tomorrow’s Utility, Emerson’s Brett Benson and James Nyenhuis joined two professionals in the electric power industry to discuss how the power industry is:
…looking to new digital technologies to improve reliability, reduce costs, and increase operational flexibility of their plants and fleets. One method utilities are exploring is the consolidation of multiple plant operations into a single remote operation center. Panelist will lead the discussion on the benefits and challenges of moving towards this type of operational model.
After introducing the panelists, Brett opened by describing digital transformation in the power industry.
The industry is moving toward semi-autonomous operations driven by remote staff. Remote operations are becoming more integrated.
The reasons for the move to remote operations are a strong observation of the benefits from renewable remote operations, the operator “pool” becomes co-located to support and learn from each other, share practices and efficiencies are gained across the fleet, increased agility with 24/7 operation of all units, more professional supervision and professionalism, more convenient collaboration with shared services, increased personnel safety, and backup to local control room affected by abnormal situations such as pandemics, weather, catastrophes, etc.
One of the power company professionals indicated that more sensing and diagnostics are required which means increased project capital costs, but that ongoing operations generate savings over traditional staffing locally across the fleet.
The panels discussed key technologies to help with the move to remote operations including model predictive control, sequential control for startups & shutdowns, and operational analytics for the historical, alert/alarm and diagnostic data. It’s important for the analytics to sift through the vast amounts of data to identify issues, alert & provide actionable information to the correct people to quickly resolve the issue.
It’s important that the right information get to the right role. Operators don’t need to know about a maintenance condition that they are not responsible for addressing. This information should not be part of the operator displays and instead be directed as a work order to the maintenance management system to be prioritize and addressed.
James noted that it’s important to lay a framework within the system to help with the identification of what unit is affected, where it is located, and what likely needs to be done. It requires attention to detail on alarm priorities, notes on each tag in the DCS, scales correctly configured and proper network segmentation. If you don’t get the basics right, the models built on top will not perform as intended.
Also, having clean alarm lists and accurate historical trends enables remote operators to better manage more than a single plant. Alarms must drive actionable events rather than be merely a notification. It’s important to follow the ANSI/ISA 18.2 Alarm Management standard through the lifecycle of each plant.
Visit the Power Generation section on Emerson.com for more on the technologies and solutions to help drive the digital transformation toward safe and secure remote operations.