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.”
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.