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Case Study: Siemens, Argentina

Multiple benefits from remote monitoring

In keeping with their Industrie 4.0 strategy, Siemens recently introduced an initiative they call Digitalization, which offers digital solutions “for more efficiency, sustainability, and security.” As part of this initiative, Siemens promotes the use of data-driven services to monitor power plants, helping to ensure a reliable energy supply. Out in the field, Siemens personnel are working to transform those ideas into real-world projects. Here is the story of one project that has improved power plant performance and reduced emissions, while at the same time reducing transportation costs and man-hours.

A few months ago, Alexis Tricco at Siemens Buenos Aires in Argentina undertook their first digitalization project. In his role of providing technical support backup for power plant generation, he and his team are responsible for supervising operations and introducing new technologies to cut costs and ensure greater reliability of the physical plant. In this project, Tricco was tasked with developing a secure and reliable way to collect data from control systems running at power plants located hundreds of kilometers from the Siemens office. The first phase was to be a pilot—to connect his WinCC OA SCADA system to a Siemens T3000 DCS running at a power plant located about 100 kilometers from Buenos Aires. The live data would be used for supervisory control and developing new predictive control strategies.

A significant challenge of the project was that there were two networks involved, the control network and a multi-customer network, connected by an intermediary computer. “My idea was to bring all the process data onto my WinCC OA Server running on the customer network,” said Tricco, “To get this, I needed to replicate the data from the T3000 to the interface PC and from there to the WInCC OA Server. This basic data access was the first stage of the project.”

Siemens Argentina systen diagram

For the data communications protocol Ticco chose OPC, because the T3000 had an OPC server and WinCC has an OPC client. However, since OPC DA does not network well, he decided to tunnel the OPC data over TCP, using a company VPN. After reviewing the OPC tunnelling software that could meet his needs, he chose the Cogent DataHub.

“I needed to communicate over different networks, with end points that could convert between TCP and OPC, acting as server and client simultaneously,” he said. “The DataHub has an OPC server on one side and an OPC client on the other side, which is exactly what I needed. The other software I looked at would have required two licenses for each PC. I had to think of the costs.

“What’s more, the DataHub is user-friendly, not complicated to figure out. I just read the manual one time and got it working in less than a day. We did some tests, and when everything was working we presented the idea to company management for their feedback.”

The pilot was successful, and management decided to implement the solution. Tricco can now go online and collect OPC data from the plant’s T3000 DCS and perform analysis in real time. The system is connected to the WinCC OA server in the Buenos Aires main office complex, in the control room for monitoring remote locations. Like Tricco, company engineers can monitor the performance of each of the power plant’s gas turbines, and use the data to optimize combustion and control emissions to meet government regulatory standards. There is no need to go on site.

“Until now, to optimize combustion at a client location site someone had to drive or fly to the site, at significant cost and loss of man-hours,” said Tricco. “Now, we can do it all remotely. In fact, just sitting at home I can connect to our VPN and customize the process in a couple of hours. Getting data from the customer, we can choose which equipment to monitor in which part of the plant, and whether or not to optimize its performance.”

This initial implementation clearly demonstrates the practical value of digitalization for all parties involved. The customer is pleased with the solution, as they know their plants are operating at the highest possible capacity, while actually reducing emissions. Regulatory agencies laud the increased compliance. And, along with a new revenue stream from offering this service, Siemens builds a stronger relationship with the customer. Plans are currently underway to roll out the solution to two more plants immediately, and then expand the program farther afield.

Renewable Power is Now Affordable

In the late 1980s I was working at company in the USA that sold natural gas through direct purchase. Always on the lookout for new opportunities in the energy field, at one point they gave me a special assignment to research solar energy. We needed to know when solar would be cost-effective, competitive with coal, oil, gas, or nuclear.

In those pre-Internet days, I had to head over to the nearby university library and pore through scientific journals and economic publications to come up with some predictions. From all I could gather, the experts seemed to agree that solar would take at least 5 years before it would be worthwhile to invest in. So the project went on hold, but I was eagerly looking forward to a clean, renewable source of energy to become widely available in the early ’90s.

Well, it has actually taken closer to 30 years, but it appears that the tide is finally turning. A recent report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) says that renewable power, including solar and wind, were more affordable in 2017 than ever before, and are now strongly competitive in many locations and applications.

A few IRENA report findings

“Renewable power generation costs continue to fall and are already very competitive to meet needs for new capacity.”

“The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) from solar photovoltaics (PV) decreased by 69% between 2010 and 2016 – coming well into the cost range of fossil fuels.”

“Onshore wind, whose costs fell 18% in the same period, provides very competitive electricity, with projects routinely commissioned nowadays at USD 0.04/kWh.”

“As installation accelerates, the cost equation for renewables just gets better and better. With every doubling of cumulative installed capacity for onshore wind, investment costs drop by 9% while the resulting electricity becomes 15% cheaper.”

I find these statistics very encouraging, because now more than ever, the world needs abundant sources of energy at affordable prices. This is the energy that will power industry, commerce, and households for decades and centuries to come.

Data connectivity plays a role

I’m also pleased that Skkynet is responsible, in a quiet but important way, for some of these cost reductions. With increasingly more efficient and secure data connectivity, our customers who install and monitor wind turbines or solar panels are improving their quality of service and cutting their costs. Ultimately these savings are passed on to the consumers and industrial users of the energy. As the costs continue to drop, investment in renewables will increase.

Of course, conventional power plants, pipelines, and offshore oil platforms are also cutting their costs through secure remote monitoring and supervisory control. Improved access to production data benefits everyone across the board. So, I expect that the changeover to renewables will continue in the same gradual, steady way into the foreseeable future. Let’s see what the next 30 years have in store.

Case Study: Wind Turbine Farm, USA

DataHub Scripting solution calms the conflict of bats vs. blades

Required by law to protect a rare species of bat, a major wind power generation company finds a solution using the Cogent DataHub®.

A rapid expansion of wind farms across the Eastern and Central United States has been checked in the past couple of years due to growing concerns for wildlife. An endangered bat species lives in that area, and is protected by law. Fears that the whirring blades of wind turbines could be harmful to this species of bat were sufficient to halt construction of a wind farm in West Virginia in 2009, and the discovery of a dead bat near a wind turbine in Pennsylvania in 2011 caused the power company to shut down the whole 35-turbine system for several weeks.

Although wind turbines are known to cause a few fatalities among common tree-dwelling bats, the endangered bat was thought to be largely safe, as it lives in caves, hibernates for more than half the year, and is seldom found in the vicinity of wind turbines. However, in the fall these bats migrate from their feeding grounds to their home caves for the winter. During this time, the chances of them passing through a wind farm are greatly increased.

In March a few years ago a major power company in the USA was informed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service that a number of turbines on the bat migration routes would need to be shut down while the bats are migrating. This caused quite a stir. The migration period for the bats is two months long―from mid-August to mid-October. Shutting down the whole system for that length of time would be very costly, not to mention the loss of clean energy which would need to be replaced by fossil fuels.

To maximize uptime, the company gained permission to let the turbines run during the times that the bats were not flying – all daylight hours, and in the night time when air temperatures drop below a specific temperature setpoint, or when the wind is fairly strong. The challenge was to implement a complete solution. A single bat fatality could mean full shut-down, legal penalties, and even lawsuits.

Top management at the company immediately took action, contacting the wind turbine manufacturer, who also provides the control systems. After several months of emails and meetings, it became apparent that the manufacturer would not have anything ready in time for the mid-August deadline.

“With three weeks to go, they told us there was no solution in sight,” said the SCADA engineer responsible for the project, “and we would need to go to manual operation, and reconfigure the cut-in speed on every turbine, twice a day.”

Most wind turbines are designed to “cut in”, or start turning to produce energy, when the wind is blowing at a certain speed. For these turbines, the normal cut-in speed is 3.5 meters per second. As the bats are active in low to moderate wind speeds, the company would need to raise that to 7 meters per second each night, and then drop it back down to 3.5 the following morning. This would mean manually reconfiguring the PLCs for 100 turbines, twice a day.

A better way

“I thought there must be a better way,” the project manager continued. “We’d been using the DataHub for years, and knew the potential was there to leverage this asset further. I gave Cogent a call, and told them what we were up against. They delivered by helping us to develop a very efficient program using the native scripting language of the DataHub. The code ran right on the SCADA interface of the OEM system – so it’s as reliable as you can get.”

“Working together with Cogent, we came up with a DataHub script that doesn’t change the cut-in speed of the turbines at all. We just blocked them from starting. The script tells each turbine to stay off, and keeps measuring wind speed. When it picks up to 7 meters per second, the script releases the turbine to start, and it ramps right up to the operating state. At the end of the day, we have a complete audit trail of every turbine controlled, including a history of critical parameters, such as rotational and wind speeds, and energy curtailed.”

“The script also has a temperature component. On cool nights in September and October, when the temperature drops below the dew point, it uses the same algorithm for starting and stopping the wind turbines.”

By the first week of August a test script was written, and after a few days of testing and last-minute tweaks, it was ready. The system went live on August 15th, and is meeting all expectations. Every night, whenever the air temperature is above the setpoint and the wind speed falls below 7 meters per second, the wind turbines stop, allowing the endangered bats to return safely to their caves for a long winter hibernation.

“I call the DataHub the Canadian Swiss Army Knife,” said the project manager. “We are able to accomplish a host of required functions with a single product solution. The ability to provide sophisticated logic and control algorithms with the built-in functionality of this product is the game changer. Being able to securely deliver real-time data between a site and the control center system allows the dispatch team to monitor the control process and maximize the production of clean, renewable, energy sources. Talk about a smart grid – who would have thought we’d be doing this type of thing in real time?”

Case Study: Renewable Wind Power, Turkey

Using DataHub to connect wind farms, and WebView to monitor their aggregated data

The country of Turkey is emerging as a growing economic and industrial power, with an estimated 6% annual increase in demand for electricity over the next 20 years, according to the Turkish Electricity Transmission Company. Investments in the energy sector will be well above 100 billion USD during that same period. Meriting special attention is wind power. Turkey has the highest growth rate of installed systems worldwide, expected to leap from 1,700 MW in 2010 to 20,000 MW by 2023.

Riding this wave, a prominent electrical power production company in Istanbul is investing heavily in renewable and alternative sources for power generation. They recently erected two new wind farms, with a third one and a thermal energy power plant on the way. Six months ago, as the construction phase neared completion, the company began looking at ways to monitor their wind farms and display the live data in their central Istanbul office, using a single web-based application.

“We needed a way to quickly view the energy production status in each of our two wind farms,” said the Director of Operations. “We also wanted to see a summary of the total count of turbines in operation, in maintenance, and in failure status, along with detailed data from each turbine.”

nsc-logoA challenge for the data integration was that each of the two remote wind farms is controlled by a SCADA system that cannot be connected directly to the Internet. NSC Teknoloji, Skkynet’s partner for the Turkish market, proposed a solution using DataHub® WebView™.

At each remote location NSC Teknoloji installed the DataHub® and connected it to the company’s SCADA system. Then they connected both of those sites to WebView running at their central office. Once the data connection was made, NSC staff created special web pages to display summary and detailed data of the system and the wind turbines.

“The system is performing very well, transmitting more than 30,000 data points over the Internet, with 1-second refresh time,” said Mr. Ibrahim Serhan Arslan, Director of NSC Teknoloji. “It is incredible that we can carry this huge amount of data over the tightly restricted bandwidth of our Internet connection.”

nsc-wind-system

The Web HMI screens and controls were created easily through the WebView browser interface, with no programming. From his office, the Director of Operations can now view online megawatt production, wind speeds, temperatures, and total turbine count and operational status for each wind farm, all on a single page.

“In the near future we will add the third wind farm data to the system,” said Mr. Arslan. “Before they were only able to access this data for each wind farm one by one using the SCADA vendor’s web connect tool, and they had no way to view data from the whole system in one screen. Now they have a summary screen for all power plants, and the details for each plant are just one click away.”

“This is very efficient way to review the status of our wind farms,” said the Director of Operations. “We want to thank NSC Teknoloji and Skkynet for making this system work for us.”

Case Study: ABB, Colombia

Electrical substation upgrade: connecting ABB MicroSCADA suite to Oracle using DataHub

A key task for ABB in Colombia is upgrading electrical substations. The ABB development team is always looking for new tools for their substation automation systems to make operation easier, and to provide as much information as possible for the system operators.

One of the latest developments was the addition of a database to their Substation Automation System. The Substation Automation equipment used by ABB is designed according the 61850 standard. The idea of adding a database was to allow the operator to access valuable information stored over long periods of time (2-4 years).

“As with most SCADA systems, the trends graphics and the historical data are stored temporarily,” said one member of the development team. “Your typical substation equipment is designed to have no moving parts. It uses a small, solid state disk to store data, which is not big enough to store information for long periods of time.”

abb-colombia-system

The ABB substation automation system uses ABB’s MicroSCADA suite. One of the functions of that software is to provide a gateway between the IEC 61850 data protocol and OPC. Using the information available in OPC, the development team chose the DataHub® from Cogent (a subsidiary of Skkynet) to interface between MicroSCADA and Oracle, storing process information in a network disk.

“We found the DataHub to be a powerful, user-friendly software package that allows us to bridge between our OPC server and Oracle,” said a member of the development team. “The support of the Cogent team was great. The DataHub is a very good complement to the IEC 61850 technology. We can save data in the Oracle database, and also monitor live data in the DataHub data browser. The first prototype is now in a testing period, and is running well.”

Case Study: PowerData, Caribbean

Caribbean resort facilities and power stations use DataHub to monitor system output and performance

Even on the lush tropical beaches of St. Maarten, Suriname, St. Kitts, and Antigua, where the sunshine sparkles on the deep turquoise waters of the Caribbean, access to real-time data is vital. While tourists lounge on white sand beaches, the managers and engineers at resorts, shopping centers, and power plants work round the clock behind the scenes to ensure a smooth experience. Operators and managers in the public institutions and private facilities at these remote destinations need to know what their processes are doing at any given time, from any location. They must be able to react quickly to changing conditions and make key decisions.

To meet this need, PowerData Limited of St. Maarten provides real-time and historical online data reporting services. They supply managers and engineers in power plants, resorts, and commercial facilities in the Caribbean islands with the data they need to monitor their power generation equipment, instrumentation, and other machinery. Recently, PowerData started using the DataHub® to give their customers a real-time data display using a standard web browser.

“Now our clients can open a web browser from wherever they are, and see exactly what is going on,” said Mr. Cameron Burn, CEO of PowerData. “The DataHub’s Java applets lets us feed large quantities of data to a page at high speeds, with no refresh necessary.”

st-maarten-caribbean-system

Cameron is using the DataHub’s Table applet to display multiple DataHub points. His web server provides the page, and loads the DataHub Table applet. The applet then creates a direct TCP link to the DataHub, which is connected to the PowerData monitoring equipment’s OPC server. The DataHub streams the data from the PowerData equipment to the web page in real time. The processing load on the web browser is very little-there’s no need for screen refresh-and the data is always up-to-the-second accurate.

st-maarten-caribbean-web-page

“Remote monitoring of our engine installations has been one of the most valuable aspects of this new system,” said Mr. Jeff Close, MAN Support Services Engineer at Needsmust Electricity Power Station in St. Kitts. “This is so much easier, and much more reliable, than the manual monitoring and logging methods we were using in the past. It gives us the ability to combine all engine data for the station into one page, therefore making it easier to assess the station status.”

“We are very pleased with the convenience of obtaining our data reading automatically from the PowerData web site,” said Terrence Simmon, Power Station Operations Manager of the Sonesta Maho Beach Hotel in St. Maarten. “It has increased our reliability significantly.”

As the benefits of real-time data monitoring from a web browser become more apparent, Cameron Burn expects to see a growing demand for this use of the DataHub.