Wireless power plant monitoring at LAPEM

Austin, Texas – Emerson Process Management's Smart Wireless technology is being employed very successfully by the Testing Laboratory of Equipment and Materials (LAPEM) of Mexico's Federal Electrical Commission (CFE) in helping to determine thermal efficiencies at power generating units throughout Mexico.  LAPEM has five analysis teams that set up temporary measurement facilities at each of 140 power plants, although they can't cover 100% of the plants due to the time required for each. In contrast to traditional wired measurements, one team's easy establishment of a temporary wireless network in power plants made it possible to increase its productivity and plant coverage by 10%. This led to an annual revenue increase of $512,000 US for LAPEM. It has also improved the revenue of the Federal Electrical Commission by pushing higher output for each plant while reducing costs.

The ease of use and the reliable performance of Emerson's Smart Wireless system resulted in a decision by the Laboratory Analysis group to equip all five of its analytical teams with wireless instrumentation. Their productivity is expected to increase by another 40%, with faster turnaround time between services. As a result, all five teams should perform 25 more assessment services per year, producing an extra $1,375,000 US annually without adding personnel. Each of the 140 power units can now be visited and analyzed every other year.

"In the past, we could only cover about 50 plants per year," said Oscar Martinez Mejia of LAPEM. "We needed to reduce turnaround time at each plant in order to reach every plant on a two-year cycle. Emerson's Smart Wireless made it possible for the team equipped with wireless devices to cut their on-site time by one-third, enabling them to complete more services in a year's time and proving the value of wireless."

When this group of technicians and engineers arrive at a plant, they install 7 to 25 Rosemount wireless instruments, depending on the size of the unit (350MW, 300MW, 160MW and smaller), plus a Smart Wireless Gateway to receive key flow, pressure and temperature measurements which are fed to a thermal efficiency model. The model is used to determine the heat rate of the unit and the efficiency of such equipment as condensers, cooling towers, boilers, turbines and auxiliary equipment, as well as energy losses. This information helps the analytical team define problems a plant needs to correct to maximize production efficiency.

"It takes 15 days to install and commission wired instruments, take the readings and tear down the setup," Martinez Mejia said. "Then, another week is needed for reporting and other activities before a team can move on to the next plant. In the future, they will be able to cover 75 plants per year, because the on-site work can be done in just 10 days using wireless devices."

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