Even when carefully maintained, control and protection systems require upgrades and modernisations from time to time to ensure the continuation of safe and reliable operation. Below I have written about the five most common reasons for a power plant operator wanting to modernise their control and protection systems and how it can be done cost-effectively to improve the overall performance of systems.
We need to improve availability and replace existing obsolete equipment
An efficient way to improve availability and to minimise unscheduled outages is to do the modernisation in a flexible and modular way. This is an ideal approach, since it allows the work to be divided into smaller stages, thereby reducing the risks and complexity involved and ultimately leading to cost savings.
Before making the decision on the scope of the modernisation, it is advisable to conduct a study on the existing system life cycle. This is because, very often, the various parts of the system equipment are in a different life cycle phase. Based on our experience, it is totally possible to replace parts only after they have reached the end of their lifespan; a complete modernisation of the systems is not always necessary.
We want more data, reliability, and safety
When planning the modernisation, it is wise to look at the whole chain of control and protection and to consider developing and renewing also the field equipment. New sensors and field equipment make it possible to improve the monitoring, control, and protection capability of the high-risk and high-value turbomachinery.
We need to increase operational flexibility
New systems provide more flexibility in making modifications to existing operational functions. When designing the modernisation, it is key to have in-depth discussions with the plant personnel in order to determine the current status and development needs of the control and protection functions. The target should be to automate most of the routine operations and to fine-tune the control functions and the process to enable efficient operation.
Our maintenance costs are high
Obsolete equipment spare parts are costly and maintenance needs are very high. Equipment reaching its end of life can cause numerous unscheduled outages, because of failures. New equipment reduces the costs and the need for spares. At the same time, better support and online testing capabilities during operation also reduce maintenance costs. This provides a better understanding of the equipment condition and supports well-timed maintenance actions.
We would like to have better visibility to systems to understand the root causes of failures
Compared with modern systems, the monitoring capabilities in old turbines and generators are very limited. However, it is very important to improve the visibility of your rotating equipment status and to develop the limiters so that you don’t run into unwanted shutdowns of the turbine. Plant operators should have access to precise information for the optimal operation area and, in the event of an unwanted shutdown, a clear picture of the reasons for the shutdown. Good visibility into operational data supports the correct decision making and improves the efficiency of both operation and maintenance.
Getting your systems under control
Improved performance together with visibility into data reduces the risk of failures, increases operational flexibility, enables timely maintenance activities, and minimises plant downtime. We call it getting your systems under control.