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Strategic Planning Workshop Participants Develop
Best Practices for Power Plant Optimization

The summer seminar season kicked off at Neundorfer in late April, with the first-ever Strategic Planning Workshop--a brainstorming summit for managers aspiring to improve power plant efficiency, unit availability, emissions and safety. Seven decision-makers from five states traveled to Northeast Ohio for a day and a half of sessions exploring how to create and implement policies supporting a holistic power plant maintenance strategy.

The event was co-sponsored by United Dynamics Corporation (UDC), Storm Technologies, and Neundorfer, with guest speakers from Linestream Technologies and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory.

"This workshop created a forum for discussing how managers can start sharing ideas and resources across departments to reduce the number of unplanned outages, avoid de-rates, and create power plants that run more efficiently and pollute less," said Steve Ostanek, Neundorfer's president.

A central theme of the event was "bridging the chasm" between different power plant departments. Although changes made in one area have an impact elsewhere, administrative silos too often cause decisions to be made in a disconnected manner. Since all the parts are inter-connected, lasting solutions require a broader view.  

"The Strategic Planning Workshop brought together experts from all areas of the power plant--from the coal stack and mills, to the boiler, to downstream air pollution control equipment," said areas of the power plant--from the coal stack and mills, to the boiler, to downstream air pollution control equipment," said Mike Neundorfer, owner and CEO at Neundorfer. "Together we discovered that it is indeed possible to keep a holistic view in mind even when working with less-than-ideal inputs."

Dick Storm, CEO at Storm Technologies, added: "Each time we combine our talents, we learn from each other technically and promote new business ideas that are a win-win for everyone involved."

Despite the fact that achieving a balance between "realistic" and "ideal" isn't easy, workshop attendees and presenters did reach a broad consensus about some best practices for making decisions without losing sight of the bigger picture. These best practices are summarized below.



.          1. To achieve anticipated return on investment, testing should be performed before planned outages to identify the most beneficial use of maintenance dollars. Without this testing, it is not possible to know which imprecise inputs are truly contributing to lost efficiency, environmental pollution and low peak load capacity. 

2.      Before any kind of testing, everyone should understand which measurements could be biased or flawed by the impact of other factors. Too often, important data--such as fuel line fineness and furnace oxygen--is not measured by permanent plant instrumentation. 

3.      Obtaining representative data requires using appropriate probes/equipment in the correct locations. Almost always, this means collecting data from more than one location, at more than one point in time.  

4.      Performing thorough inspections and root cause analysis during forced outages is a key strategy for identifying problems that are small now but could lead to additional outages later. 

5.      To achieve true performance-driven/reliability-driven maintenance, decision-makers need to know what data is available to them and what it means.  

6.      Before any inspection, all involved power plant personnel should understand what is going to be checked, and why, and what problems the inspectors are looking for. 

7.      After any inspection, people from different departments should get together for a report-out brainstorming session to highlight what changes would best keep the entire system running efficiently.  

8.      If more than one consulting company is called in to help troubleshoot and/or optimize systems, communication should be ongoing between and among the different consultants and the plant managers.  

9.      Often, the best way to get a repair or upgrade project approved is to find a place for it in the capital budget.  

10.  To optimize the chance of a project getting funded, it helps to include specific numbers about cost benefit/return on investment.  

11.  Decisions about what to fix or optimize now should be made based on expectations about what might happen when the economy bounces back. Plants need to be ready with extra capacity when demand increases. Note: tube failures seem to occur most often during peak load periods when the replacement cost of generation is the highest.  

12.  Before any planned outage, the project manager, plant personnel and other decision-makers (including consultants) should work together to prioritize proposed repairs. Criteria for "priority one" items must include consideration of what is realistic, rather than what is ideal.  

13.  Whenever tests/inspections are performed, checking for tramp air should be on the priority list. This means coordinating oxygen rise testing before the outage with internal inspections. Testing and inspections are both necessary to find sources of air in-leakage.  

Here is how James Sorrell, Region 1 Engineer at American Electric Power's headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, summarized the importance of these best practices: "Being a participant in this workshop reminded me about the importance of keeping the whole picture in sight to avoid tunnel vision."  

Neundorfer, UDC and Storm are already planning another such strategic summit for the fall. Watch your inbox for details soon!