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The Energy Transition

In my previous blog I explained why Asset Performance Management (APM) is important for power plants who want to operate in the current constrained power market. This time I will talk about the different elements of Siemens Omnivise Availability that allow operators to reap the benefits of digitization to improve their operational efficiency and enhance their financial performance. 

They say that ‘data is the new oil’ and while there is some truth in that saying, it needs to be managed and nurtured carefully to extract its real value. Power plants are highly complex facilities, and the myriad of sensors on equipment and information derived from process control system provide a rich source of this data. But gaining maximum value and actionable business insights from this has been a challenge that operators have wrestled with for many years.

In their quest to optimize operational efficiency, operators are starting to collect this information and develop condition-based maintenance policies for the facility that look for anomalies as part of their Asset Performance Management strategy. For an effective APM strategy, merely looking for defects is not enough – how do you know, what that anomaly indicates? You must analyze any anomaly and through data analysis and rules-based models link this to a specific failure. Armed with this information, the maintenance team can be tasked with remedial action.

There is so much more that can be obtained from this data. With Siemens Omnivise Availability, operators have greater control of the performance of their assets as well as being able to lower operation and maintenance costs, reduce failure rates and achieve the highest return on investment. This is because the APM acts as part of a continuous improvement cycle where operational data is collected, analyzed and diagnosed to identify irregularities and link these to failure modes.

The first step is collecting the required data from the thousands of assets around the facility. One traditional challenge when developing a digital data map of a plant is that many of the assets operate independently from the process control system. Until recently, that would have required manual readings to be taken on paper that would then need manual digitalization by typing it into a computer. However, through our partnership with Bentley Systems that information can now either be entered on a mobile device that is directly linked to the Omnivise system. Other assets that have until now not been part of a digital map can be incorporated with the system easily through wireless sensors and their data, added to the plant’s digital map and information collected directly through our MindSphere cloud platform. This platform is the backbone to our APM offerings where core components such as the data lake, analytics and asset reliability management live.

To work alongside APM, we (Siemens) have a broad selection of diagnostics tools essential for monitoring the performance of a power plant. Some examples: Vibration monitoring is used to analyze the performance of rotating equipment such as turbines and generators. Instrumentation & Control Monitors and Advisors analyze the SPPA-T3000 system health, as well as the efficiency of its operation, while GenAdvisor is used to monitor the condition of generators on-site. Our Fatigue Monitoring System analyzes the integrity of thick-walled vessels under fast changing temperatures and exposure to high pressure. Other significant assets within a power plant may already have vendor-specific diagnostic systems that provides its own fault reporting independent of the APM solution. This can lead to a bewildering array of different systems, meaning operators have to check several screens to compile a composite picture. For effective APM it is essential that there exists only one version of the truth, but much of the information contained in these systems is valuable.

By feeding all the data into Omnivise, an integrated view on the system health is achieved.

The threat of cyber-attacks at power plants is an omnipresent concern and as such these facilities demand a high level of cybersecurity. To meet these requirements within Omnivise, all available data is collected, uploaded via managed file transfer through a secure tunnel and stored in our operated and secured data center, powered by MindSphere. The main benefit here is that it enables the data analytics to be carried out in isolation from the critical process control system without any interference e.g. through heavy performance consumption of data processing or system updates at analytics.

Not all APM systems are created equal. A deep and thorough understanding of power generation, its equipment and processes are vital, if it is to achieve the desired results, which leaves us uniquely positioned.

Aside from our tradition as designers and a manufacturer of individual components, control systems and complete power plants, we also maintain and operate these facilities. Over the years we have captured a considerable amount of this intelligence with our asset models containing failure modes, how to identify them and what to do about it. That capability is enhanced by our digitalization efforts through intelligent diagnostic engines or cloud-based algorithms. Our partner Bentley System provides AssetWise Reliability, a very mature system to support reliability centered workflows. Together with our rich knowledge on power plants, this partnership creates an ideal platform for power generators to rapidly implement and gain the benefits from APM.

One of the drawbacks of developing an effective APM system is the long-time frame involved. I have heard several operators talk in terms of years when it comes to implementing APM. This is where our power generation specific, data-rich asset models come to the fore by drastically reducing the implementation time.

There is a massive amount of data collected within a power plant. For a standard combined cycle power plant, it can be easily more than 10,000 signals, with more than 5,000 components to be supported by APM. When an operator has a fleet of plants, that volume of data will multiply, along with the challenges of managing it and extracting actionable business insights. This is a challenge that we have recognized and have worked hard to ensure our APM is ready to support a fleet of power plants.

As with most products, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’-solution, and nor should there be. There is a vast array of doddering generation options – both in technology, layout, supplier and age. These plants will all have their own standard processes and management procedure. Even when there is commonality of operator, supplier or technology, it is common practice for them to develop their own way of working. This is a real challenge of experts, who work centrally on reliability improvement. At Siemens, we understood this issue. By using Omnivise, there is no need to clean or harmonize data upfront as APM analyses data as-is by simply mapping data to our asset models.

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Although this APM is often viewed ideally as a closed loop system – that must not be the case, it can be tailored to meet specific requirements. For example, early an asset performance management program, only the data acquisition from the DCS or historian may be visualized that can deliver some KPI insights. The next step could well be to add a diagnostic engine allowing the analysis of the condition of the asset that can provide actionable insights for the operator.

Another option would be Asset Reliability Management using only mobile inspection. The program starts by installing AssetWise, Siemens’ partnership with Bentley Systems, that delivers cloud services for a connected data environment to collect information from selected assets. Over time, more and more assets can be added. In a later step, data acquisition and analytics may be added.

The buzzwords for power plant operators are ‘higher availability’ and ‘reliability’, along with ‘increased operational flexibility’. In my next blog, I will tell you how APM can optimize both maintenance and operations performance to meet these goals – stay tuned!

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