An interview with Ricky Morgan, VP Engineering, on how TTS’s support team and engineers can help plants optimize their operations for extended reliability.
What are some major challenges that facilities are facing now-a-days? Before and after COVID-19?
COVID-19 has only highlighted further that customers are looking for operational flexibility in the industry. As the energy industry continues to change, power plant owners and operators are looking for ways to optimize their resources and assets to create revenue flows.
The operational challenges include a changing operational envelope as a direct result of renewables, changing fuel costs, emission requirements, coal plant retirements and a reduction in demand at this time.
To address this, operators need their equipment to start faster, start reliably, operate on multiple fuels, and run cost-effectively.
Equipment reliability is a challenge for the gas turbine industry. “Many operators have vintage equipment that they can start, but if it won’t start reliably and then keep running, then it’s value decreases dramatically” says Morgan. It goes without saying that maintenance and troubleshooting are directly related to operational reliability – how easy (or more often, difficult) is it to work on the equipment, to get parts and then to install and configure them properly.
“Furthermore,” states Morgan, “power plants also need operational flexibility in fuels, starting times and turndown; all are critical in today’s power generation market. Other industries are also experiencing this flexibility issue during COVID-19 as they try to adapt, ramp down or ramp up production, change product types and manage labor and resources.”
Another challenge is access to information related to machine or system performance – old analog and relay systems provide little operational or historical data. To solve the reliability, maintenance, and flexibility problems and to leverage available resources, you need relevant and timely information and data. Data is key to good decision making.
What can be done to improve these facilities?
With increased limitations on emissions and the demands on these legacy machines changing drastically, some facilities have to face the fact that their asset is fully depreciated. However, it would cost too much to rebuild and scrap the asset. Many operators and OEMs turn to upgrades to preserve their asset and to remain relevant, responding to the grid’s needs.
These upgrades could be any combination of the following:
Automation – use modern control systems to automate and make data available both locally and remotely.
Optimization – use modern algorithms for improved control and protection
Simplification – make maintenance and troubleshooting user friendly through smart design, use of current technology to replace obsolete and complicated designs and improving data availability. More information and less failure points.
Upgrades – install new devices and equipment – a new transmitter for additional data points is the simplest example.
Conversion – Increase flexibility through conversion of existing assets.
Analysis – use the data available to operate and maintain at maximum efficiency and flexibility
Why should plants and facilities invest in optimizing their vintage equipment?
In the long-term, the ROI for plant upgrades and optimization usually far outweighs scrapping a legacy asset. Overall, it drives downtime reductions for plant operators, which is crucial for reliable functionality and plant efficiency. Downtime means loss of profit and productivity. The upgrades listed above can all contribute with each site having different needs and different paths to improve operational reliability. Control system upgrades are one of the most common upgrades considered:
Modern control systems can have the following benefits:
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Reliability – hardware and software optimization and the ability to provide large amounts of real-time and historical data increases reliability
Machine Performance – some older relay systems will see more accurate and often better overall performance and efficiency while operating as a result of accurate digital data.
Maintenance Planning – accurate data and feedback from the control systems improves maintenance planning.
Flexibility – modern control systems can allow you to identify and increase your operation envelope.
Spares – lower overall spares inventory costs, especially if the system used is already installed elsewhere in the facility
Operator Training Costs – using the same system across a plant can reduce overall training costs and increase personnel flexibility. Equipment suppliers typically provide more frequent, varied and cost-effective training courses than OEM turbine manufacturers
What are some of the main plant optimization upgrades that TTS provides to clients?
TTS has been offering innovative, technical solutions to the turbomachinery industry for over 35 years. In 1988, we pioneered remote access and support for troubleshooting gas and turbine operational failures. “When I joined TTS in 1999 as a Project Engineer,” says Morgan, “we were the first to provide cost-effective integration of control platforms from diverse OEMs to provide for remote worldwide access.”
With advancements like remote access and support, it has always been our goal to help energy providers and turbine owners to achieve unit reliability and fuel resilience in an ever-advancing market.
Plant Optimization through TTS gives operators a myriad of services to help improve operational flexibility and reliability. Optimization services include:
Control Systems – on Rockwell Automation or Emerson RX3i platforms
Optimized Software Design – updated algorithms for protection and control
Human Machine Interface – increased access to data and operating information through clean concise graphics interfaces.
Historian – data gathering – key to troubleshooting and maintenance planning
Equipment Upgrades/Conversions – both mechanical and electrical system upgrades are offered
What are some examples of projects you have worked on to improve a facility via plant optimization?
Over the last three decades, TTS has established itself as a leader in the field of CT plant optimization and reliability improvements. Our goal is to provide our customers with a complete array of services from state-of-the-art control systems on vintage units to performance testing on the latest “F” technology equipment.
Current/Past projects include the following
Legacy Asset Upgrade
In a recent project, TTS were asked to assist a customer who had legacy assets. These assets (three different gas turbine models and manufacturers) had at one time the capability to run on dual fuel.
Over time the ability to run on dual fuel had been compromised and starting reliability in either fuel had degraded to a point where the units were out of service for more time than available.
To address this challenge, TTS provide a comprehensive engineering, equipment supply, installation, and commissioning scope for the following:
Turbine Control System – based on Rockwell ControlLogix
Generator Excitation – based on Basler DECS-400
Generator Protection & Control System
Upgraded Instrumentation – switches, transmitters
Upgraded Electronic Fuel Valve Systems for both fuels
Application of the latest software control algorithms for the gas turbines.
Human Machine Interface
These upgrades applied to three different machine types but with a common platform, components and engineering approach met and exceeded the customers expectations for reliability and ease of maintenance.
Adjustable Peak firing is gaining traction in the market
Traditional peak firing increases unit firing temperature a fixed, incremental amount above the rated unit base load value. This increase can equate to at least a 2.5% bump in the output for the latest GE units during periods of high demand but because an increase in firing temperature boosts NOx production, the degree of incremental firing achievable above baseload may be constrained by NOx emissions
Adjustable peak firing is a valuable tool in cases where emission values exceed allowable limits before the unit reaches its standard peak firing limit. It allows the operator to increase the load to take advantage of periods of high electricity prices while staying within the maximum allowable NOx emissions dictated by their emissions permit. This mode is especially useful for merchant plants with simple cycle units or with combined cycle units with SCRs.
Implementation of adjustable peak firing can be tailored to specific site power output and emission limitation specifications and requires control system logic modifications, HMI modifications and combustion tuning necessary to install peak firing capability. Adding this capability allows owners to take advantage of high revenue opportunities without risking compliance penalties.
If you have a legacy asset or project you are interested in making upgrades on, call or email TTS Energy Services. We will come see you or meet virtually to discuss your challenges and offer a solution.