At the recent ARC India Forum “Driving Digital Transformation in Industry and Cities,” Uniper participated as a Silver Sponsor for the first time. With headquarters in Düsseldorf, Germany, Uniper has been publicly listed since September 2016. It ranks among the large power generation and trading companies in Europe. Through the company’s commodity trading and technology services businesses, it is also active in energy markets from the Americas to Asia.
As we learned, through a combination of technical and commercial capabilities, Uniper strives to help ensure the security of energy supply and develop solutions for tomorrow’s energy world.
As digitalization continues to spread rapidly across the power sector, industry leaders must learn how to adopt new technologies and processes to remain competitive. This Forum provided the right platform and opportunity for Uniper to network and disseminate information about digitalization in the power sector with specific reference to digital retrofits: how it effectively knits economics and new technologies; streamlines processes; and helps companies achieve operational excellence.
Peter Saddington, Business Development Lead, Enerlytics at Uniper gave a presentation on digital retrofits for power plant efficiencies. According to Mr. Saddington, the key benefits of performing a digital retrofit are:
- Reduced outages
- Fuel savings and reduced overall expenses
- Efficiency gains
Background and Challenges with Energy Solutions
Uniper, Europe’s fourth largest energy generating company, operates in 40 countries around the world with an installed capacity of about 38 gigawatts. Out of the 12,365 employees, 4,000 are engineers; and within the energy services team there is a small team dedicated to building digital solutions.
Mr. Saddington explained that the company’s 100-year history and background as an asset owner/operator gives it a deep understanding of the energy industry and the needs of its clients. The company is independent of equipment and component suppliers, providing the freedom to choose and customize the best possible solution for its clients. Uniper works with its customers, understands their concerns and market dynamics, and works to add value to the entire process. To address all these challenges and expectations it was necessary to adopt digital technologies which, according to Mr. Saddington, are integral to the commercial delivery of safe operations.
Mr. Saddington stressed the value that digital retrofitting of existing assets can bring to the global power industry. He provided a case study that showed how Big Data, analytics, and advanced visualization were used to balance a mix of renewable (mostly wind and solar) generation, combined cycle gas turbine generation, and standby coal generation in the UK to optimize energy market opportunities within the EU interconnect on a particular day last year with low demand and mild weather (no wind). This helped demonstrate that even with the high penetration of renewables in Europe and elsewhere, there is still a lot of potential for traditional assets to operate more flexibly, take advantage of market opportunities, and contribute to the worldwide energy transition.
Following numerous discussions during his stay in India, Mr. Saddington realized that people are still unsure about the penetration and efficacy of renewables in the power sector. Tracing the history of a UK-based coal unit he showed how the renewables-led flexibility is real.
No Wind, No Sun, No Problem
Through his presentation, Mr. Saddington showed how Uniper has supported the energy transition, provided safe and reliable generation for the grid, and now provides digital solutions. The company has progressed from thermodynamic modeling to its single platform, Enerlytics, in a span of 30 years. According to Mr. Saddington, the potential savings that can be made once the tool is operational more than compensate for the costs of setting up and running the Enerlytics IIoT-based Big Data analytics platform.
The Enerlytics IIoT platform brings together data from multiple control and other systems, monitors the entire system, and provides centralized control and operational transparency to improve efficiency and support better decisions. According to the company, depending on the site, this can reduce outages and overall expenditures by 10 to 15 percent and fuel savings by 15 to 30 percent per start up. “Enerlytics is a smart solution,” Mr. Saddington said. It links all the different layers and components (asset reliability, maintenance, performance, risk management, etc.) and makes them “talk to each other.” The various core clusters to the Enerlytics platform together cover a range of tools and functionalities. He highlighted these via additional case studies.
More Case Studies
Next, Mr. Saddington spoke about how Uniper’s Thermodynamic Modeling Suite powered by PROATES can be used to assess overall plant performance and individual components to maximize efficiency and generation. He substantiated this claim with a case study that showed how the addition of a cooling tower increased performance and how the most efficient course of action was worked out when the online monitoring system picked up a pressure drop.
Explaining about Uniper’s Performance Tracking solutions that use Big Data management functions, Mr. Saddington said that it helps to monitor and assess performance, provides actionable insights, and drives down costs. He backed up these claims with case study examples that showed how:
- Tracking the level of fuel oil used in the startup process could help provide incremental process improvements. This resulted in saving approximately €25,000 per start up in fuel oil costs; saving the site €3 million per year (on 100+ startups).
- Erratic boiler temperatures in a coal plant were resolved using the Thermodynamic suite and Performance Tracking tools.
Uniper’s Advanced Condition Monitoring (ACM) tool provides total plant coverage and monitors the whole plant condition by employing a multi-dimensional model algorithm. Case study examples include:
- An overhauled turbine’s start up vibration flagged thrice; the ACM tool found that a locking wire had not been put back in place properly. This saved the company millions of euros.
- The ACM tool showed that a transformer displaying a high winding temperature was due to a safety cordon being in place. The site avoided a potential trip and associated loss of production.
- Implementing ACM helped avoid a blockage in an air heater causing a unit to be taken offline. This saved the company about €300,000.
In conclusion he spoke about the high level, quantifiable benefits of all the solutions and the advantages of digitalization to all the stakeholders.
Renewable sources of energy are garnering attention, globally. What is needed for a safe and sustainable future is reliable, 24x7 power that makes maximum use of low-carbon renewable generation. In almost all instances, this requires digital solutions that can leverage Big Data; advanced analytics; advanced visualization; and smart, IoT-connected assets. As showcased via the case studies at the recent ARC India Forum, it appears that Uniper has made significant headway in this direction.
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Keywords: Uniper, Enerlytics, Energy Solutions, ARC India Forum, Digital Retrofits, Digitalization, Power Generation, Power Plant, Sustainable, ARC Advisory Group.