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Electrical Integration Yields Plant Performance Gains

Oct. 14, 2014
Improvements in Visibility and Collaboration Can Head Off Downtime and Improve Worker Safety

While consolidating electrical control and process automation functions under a single integrated system brings clear cost benefits, it can also deliver significant improvements in overall plant performance. With added visibility into electrical equipment and access to historical data, routine preventive maintenance measures yield to predictive, condition-based activities that take into account the status of both process and electrical assets. And when equipment does need attention, easy access to more complete information means it can be repaired and brought back on line more quickly. Further, remote access to electrical system data enabled by IEC 61850 networks means that many electrical system fixes and configuration changes can be applied and replicated over the network—keeping workers well clear of potentially hazardous situations.

In addition to providing an expanded and more textured view of a plant's maintenance needs, electrical integration can bring together process operators and electrical power specialists. Together, with a unified set of visualization and system management tools, they can better understand the interdependencies between process and power subsystems and can make more informed, big-picture decisions. In total, improved visibility and collaboration across operations, power and maintenance organizations add up to higher plant availability, improved worker safety and optimized control strategies and procedures that leverage both real-time process and electrical data.

Coordinate and collaborate

In traditional multiple-system plants, operators and maintenance personnel often make critical decisions in silos. They have a limited view of the plant, with knowledge and visibility restricted to just one domain—their own system environment, their own asset database, and their own alarm and event lists with different time synchronization bases. Separate electrical system, maintenance and operations consoles—often in different control rooms—create additional physical and cultural barriers to the common goal of overall plant optimization.

Increasingly though, modern plants are moving to centralized control rooms where process operators, power engineers, and maintenance personnel work together more closely. A common, plant-wide system for process automation and electrical control system tasks helps to further promote collaboration and a consistent operating philosophy across functions. This can help reduce risk, increase uptime and optimize overall decision-making by all.

With one integrated system, all personnel access process and power data through a common interface tailored to that individual's particular role. The process operator's screens default to the flows, temperatures and pressures required to control and interact with the process. The power engineer's displays feature key parameters of the power distribution system. Meanwhile, maintenance professionals see prioritized lists of work orders for both process and electrical equipment, such as medium- and low-voltage motors, that need their most urgent attention. Underneath the hood, however, each system user has full access to all the same process and electrical data and pertinent alerts, including synchronized lists of alarms and events.

ABB, for example, synchronizes and time-stamps all information from the plant's electrical subsystems to the process system. Time-stamping of process events to this same network clock means that operators and engineers no longer need to try to compare unsynchronized event lists from multiple systems to answer the question of exactly what happened when and in what order. Trouble-shooting, error analysis and even response to plant upsets happen more quickly and easily. Shell Oil, for example, has reported a 20% productivity improvement through better operator visibility of plant assets.

The same shared infrastructure that provides a common time basis for network events also facilitates remote system-wide parameterization and configuration. Disturbance records (DRs), too, are captured on the network, eliminating the need for a substation technician to trek into the field, hook up his laptop to the substation in question, and download the latest DRs. Instead, DRs are automatically uploaded to a system server, eliminating the potential loss of records due to IED buffer overloads. Technicians are able to remotely access and change parameterization and protection logic from any engineering station; faster analysis means faster root-cause analysis and issue resolution.

Asset management extended

The integration of electrical controls into a unified system architecture also extends the scope of asset management strategies, providing a more holistic view of overall plant health—and the prioritization of corrective interventions. Historically, electrical assets in particular have been difficult to instrument in a cost-effective way. As a result, electrical asset maintenance is often neglected until a previously undetected fault begins to impinge on process operations.
But the integrated information architecture typified by ABB's System 800xA leverages open Ethernet standards such as IEC 61850 and PROFINET to monitor the health of all equipment on a plant-wide basis—from an incoming circuit breaker in a plant substation to a temperature transmitter in a process heat exchanger. With an integrated power and process approach, the entire chain of assets that comprise a particular plant operation can be monitored and viewed, analyzed and diagnosed in the context of an integrated whole.

For example, with System 800xA's integrated Asset Optimization solution, maintenance engineers, process control operators and power engineers all have direct access to the information they need to better predict equipment failures and prevent plant upsets. For example, if a circuit breaker is taking too long to open, an alert is automatically generated and sent to the appropriate person for action. With further integration of the plant's computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), a work order can be generated automatically, streamlining maintenance workflows. The System 800xA Engineering Workplace creates one single view of all types of integrated devices, allowing fast and easy access to device diagnostics as well as configuration and parameterization changes.

One global mining company already has achieved significant asset management advances through electrical integration based on ABB System 800xA.  A holistic view of equipment health—notably its medium- and low-voltage motors—has helped improve plant availability as well as worker safety. Next up? They're using the system's inherent energy monitoring capabilities to analyze electrical consumption by plant area and individual load, with the goal of improving overall energy efficiency.

When downtime's at a premium

Whether deployed separately as part of a larger integrated system, the primary objective of a power management system is to avoid blackouts in industrial plants, especially those with in-house generation, critical loads or unpredictable, insufficient supply from the external grid. Load-shedding, for example, is an essential power management function. In the event of a power shortfall, non-critical areas of the plant are shutdown automatically in order to keep critical parts of the plant in operation. Load-shedding also can also help to avoid exceeding peak consumption thresholds, strategically ramping back consumption in non-critical areas to avoid punitive surcharges.

As a longstanding leader in this arena, ABB has delivered standalone power management systems based on System 800xA to many industries around the world. And with IEC 61850, load-shedding applications are now easier to design and maintain. They even respond more quickly than the hard-wired solutions they replace. Indeed, the IEC 61850's GOOSE (generic object oriented substation event) messaging has been proven by independent certifier KEMA  to respond 12 to 17ms more quickly than hardwired systems.

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