The years seem to fly by, and as they do, I continue to get the same questions regarding the age of equipment in a power plant. (I guess it's my gray hair; it can't be my age.) Colleagues want to know whether to replace older equipment with a newer unit featuring today's latest technologies.
It is certainly sometimes appropriate to replace a piece of equipment, but for the most part, a well-maintained utility-grade boiler or pump will last for a very long time. Think about it: A boiler consists of drums with tubes, brick, insulation and casings. If operated within its design limits and with sound water treatment and preventive maintenance, that unit will last for decades. If your boiler is pre-1970, it likely has more steel than today's units.
The majority of today's improvements will come from new computer-based controls, updated burner designs, waste heat recovery, and controlled water usage and discharge. The same can be said about pumps: If the casings are in good shape, it's usually cheaper to change the ware rings and impellers than to replace the whole pump. Efficiency also comes into play in how the pump is controlled (operated) and the type of driver used. And it's also found in the little things: For example, is the recirculating valve on your boiler feed pump left open all the time or shut off once you get up to load? I agree that if the load goes too low, the pump can be damaged without the required minimum flow; but at the same time, when it's not needed, it costs dollars to leave it open. It is not just how you maintain your assets; it's also how you operate them. Today's controls and computers can do so much more than even the best controls of five or 10 years ago.
Here are some things to consider as you assess your existing conditions and set goals to improve asset management:
1. Condition assessment
Begin with where you are and assess every system and piece of equipment. List the age, existing condition, preventive maintenance over the past 10 years, estimated life expectancy and other information.
2. Performance analysis
How does the performance of your equipment today compare to its original specifications? Are you getting the pressures and temperatures for which the equipment was designed?
3. Heat balance
What was the original heat balance for the plant versus today's actual operation? Consider all four seasons for your area.
4. Availability and reliability
Historically, what is your total plant availability/reliability on an annual basis over the past five years? Completing this reliability assessment for each piece of equipment can also be a useful tool.
5. Housekeeping and safety
Consider the existing condition of your plant concerning dirt, dust, oil, grease, filters, walkways and so on. Clean equipment runs cooler, and an orderly plant is safer and runs better.
6. Risk management
If you lost the plant or any section of the distribution system for a period of time, what means do you have to install rental boilers or chillers? Do you have business interruption insurance and a written emergency plan?
7. Asset optimization
Are you running your equipment efficiently? Do you really need to run at that pressure? How many units do you keep on hot/standby? What is your total dissolved solids concentration? Are you reusing your blowdown and wasted energy in any way? What is the temperature of your cooling water? Follow up by asking yourself why you do things as you do.
8. Asset and system valuation
With all the information you gather after answering these questions, look at each piece of equipment and each system, and then analyze any modifications that need to be made to improve your operation.
9. Goals and performance measurements
Set goals that stretch operations and management.
10. Project budget and justification
With all the data, produce a five- to 10-year forecast with a two-year budget to enhance operations and customer information.
Addressing these areas can improve your overall asset management. Consultants and engineers can also assist you with this evaluation, helping you to become more efficient, meet customer requirements and ensure that safety and environmental issues are top priorities. By identifying and discussing the desired outcome with everyone, you will come up with ways to improve your process and gain efficiency. It's the day-to-day procedures that make the plant run, but the complacency of doing a repetitive job every day can diminish positive end results. If we're going to meet customer needs, keep costs down and provide outstanding service, we need to know the status of our assets. Optimizing our assets and operations will enable us to be the energy experts for our customers, now and in the future.
David Toombs#Q1 #ChairsCorner #2011
IDEA Chair, 2010-2011
Thermal General Manager
Citizens Energy Group