Despite the structural problems plaguing the power sector, the need for reliable, high-quality power will continue to rise. This is particularly true in the developing nations. So, whether it is a conventional power plant or a new super-critical plant; asset performance, asset utilization, and availability will be focus areas for power generators. As discussed in our previous post on “digitalization of power plants (old vs new) and achieving high levels of standardization”, digitalization will greatly influence the plant and product lifecycle, and the related services value chain.
While potential opportunities abound, in asset-intensive industries such as power generation it’s not always easy for asset owners to identify the investment opportunities that will deliver the best ROI when it comes to improving asset performance management (APM). The business case for a new concept or technology implementation (related to asset performance) would depend on the expected outcomes, such as improved efficiency, reliability, asset utilization, asset longevity, cost control, and safety, to name a few. So, the next question would be, “In what areas in a power plant the application of the latest digital and data technologies would help improve APM and ensure a clear return on investment?”
Before we proceed, it is important to see the health of an asset in context with the maintenance strategy and operations requirements. The availability and reliability of an asset cannot be separated from its performance/efficiency. When monitored together using the right tools and methods, asset owners can optimize their APM objectives. The use of machine/asset data and advanced analytics will go a long way toward achieving these objectives.
Machine and equipment health monitoring should be aimed at increasing the value of existing power generation assets with historical forensic analysis, anomaly detection, asset diagnostics, and condition monitoring. Reliability monitoring could be used to foresee potential operational performance issues across the entire plant with predictive data analysis, case management, and diagnostic support. Moreover, maintenance optimization would help increase fleet reliability and utilization with personalized, financially beneficial recommendations that prioritize maintenance activities based on risk tolerance and asset criticality.
To be able to clearly understand the dependencies/asset relationships and the impact on downstream activities, it is important to have a single dashboard view based on time series data. This would reduce lot of time and effort for the plant personnel. Self-service dashboards could provide a view on key performance indicators, asset relationships, work orders as well as providing other crucial data analysis.
Outsourcing activities such as outage management or heat rate improvements (heat energy input per unit of electrical energy output) in the form of connected services could also offer good opportunities for improving power plant performance.
By harnessing data and predictive analytics to improve APM-related decision around utilization, availability, and performance, power generators could gain measurable ROI from their digitization investments. The overall aim would be to take smart business decisions that reduce financial risk and maximize full potential of fleet; one way of doing this is by monitoring the fleet from a central location.