ABB technology for safer and more efficient power plants in Asia

With a suite of tried and tested digital solutions geared towards safety and efficiency, ABB is pioneering a new way of solving operational issues in power plants across Asia.

Digitalisation is changing the way power plants do business. Digital solutions provide smarter and safer answers to problems ranging from energy pricing to the regulation of carbon emissions, to distributed energy and the addition of renewable generation resources.

With its global presence and years of expertise, ABB is at the forefront of providing solutions that can automate operations and optimise performance and the sustainability of a plant, whilst reducing risk and driving costs down.

“There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to implementing digital solutions. It takes significant industry expertise, a deep knowledge of the market context and understanding of the power generation process,” says Joerg Theis, Head of Energy Industries, Asia, ABB. “Our portfolio of products, systems and solutions garnered over the years extends across automation, instrumentation and electrical, delivering turbine control, excitation, condition monitoring, plant and process optimisation, and preventive maintenance.”

Digitalisation presents a means to create economic value as the world’s growing energy industry faces dwindling power resources and an ever-growing depletion in knowledge, particularly in Asian countries such as Japan and Korea. Digital solutions from ABB allow power generators to better manage their process and automation know-how, gain visibility and insights into equipment performance, enhance decision making in plants and fleets based on real-time data insights and gain greater access to expertise in remote geographies through collaborative operations.

Boosting operational efficiency
“Digitalisation can also offer a significant range of immediate operational and financial benefits,” Theis notes. “Sensors, devices and software can enable operators to utilise a wide range of data in real time and improve decision-making; control systems enable improved performance and maintenance of vital infrastructure and equipment either on-site or remotely; advanced analytics enables predictive maintenance and simulation to optimise asset performance; and remote monitoring and external support can address key human resource and knowledge retention issues,” he explains.

For instance, a shift from preventative to predictive maintenance has become increasingly important in recent years. Machine maintenance is well on the way to entering a new era. Instead of reacting when a component no longer works, technicians can act before a defect becomes apparent and causes costly downtime.

Continuous data analysis gives users of smart machines a much more precise picture of their facilities, reducing cost of ownerships and maintaining reliability and availability of assets. Predictive maintenance thus moves into predictive producing — and a production unit almost becomes a veritable smart factory.

Power utility companies that traditionally perform regular scheduled check-ups to maintain their infrastructure can now utilise AI and machine learning to review sensors, leverage data and advanced analytics to constantly assess the real-time condition of assets and identify when they might need repair or replacement well ahead of potential failure. With this information, operators can prioritise repairs and maintenance work, increasing worker safety and productivity and return on investment from assets,” Theis adds.

With this in mind, predictive maintenance and asset health management are becoming a key component of operators’ strategies to optimise maintenance operations, minimise risk, improve resilience and reliability, drive energy efficiency and reduce costs. New, more agile operational and business models are possible based on connectivity, optimised decision-making and automated processes.

Cloud technology and secured remote services also enable a closer relationship with partners. They allow expertise to be accessed securely from outside the plant and they free up company personnel to focus on strategic areas, such as the adoption of new business models.

Driving growth through innovative technology
The energy market is transforming rapidly and the companies that embrace change and search for innovative solutions for their customers will emerge triumphant. ABB is driven to help customers benefit from advancing digital technologies, making it easier for them to respond to the changing energy market and contribute to a sustainable future.

Through an investment in and commitment to the development of pioneering technology for digital industries, ABB is supporting customers with the development of new and evolving business models.

“Collaboration is central to ABB’s customer philosophy and by working together we have delivered solutions to some of the greatest challenges in power market transformation, including virtual power plants, boiler efficiency improvement, collaborative operations and solutions that optimise processes, reduce risk, increase operator efficiency and plant availability,” Theis notes.

For instance, ABB Ability™ is ABB’s unified, cross-industry digital offering, which includes more than 210 industrial internet solutions and an industrial internet technology platform to help customers develop new processes and advance existing ones, by providing insights and optimising planning and controls for real-time operations. The results can then be fed into control systems like ABB Ability™ System 800xA and ABB Ability™ Symphony® Plus to improve key performance metrics of plants and assets.

In addition, ABB Ability™ Asset Performance Management (APM) helps companies to more accurately predict and prevent/reduce equipment and infrastructure failures, enabling more efficient planned maintenance practices through predictive maintenance.

Optimax®, part of the ABB Ability™ Energy Management for sites suite, is ABB’s leading and globally-proven energy management system aimed at increasing plant profitability and cost efficiency through digital and scalable solutions. It enables optimum control of all energy supply system components and also provides an overview and control of all energy flows.

“Customers gain better insights into energy costs and consumption by automatic measurement, monitoring and control, with access to day-ahead optimisation based on weather and load forecasts, coordinating plant energy assets and resources — in real time — to balance supply and demand using dynamic load shedding,” Theis explains.

“The system can also coordinate and connect a large number of decentralised plants of different sizes. It optimises the operation of each individual unit connected with foresight and in real time, helping companies reduce their energy costs and generate additional revenue by participating in the energy markets or by optimising their decentralised energy resources.”

In addition, ABB offers further digital services from its Collaborative Operations™ Centre for Power Generation and Water, which helps power generation companies harness the potential of digitalisation. A remote operations and maintenance model, ABB Collaborative Operations™ allows ABB experts to provide data insights through industrial analytics, thus making customer data actionable and a resource for driving decision-making to optimise plant and fleet performance.

Through a high-speed, cyber-secure connection to the plant’s distributed control system, the centre continuously monitors key performance indicators (KPIs) across a comprehensive suite of applications to ensure that each plant is operating within regulatory, load, environmental and cyber security requirements, automatically notifying the customer if a KPI is under-performing or a reference limit is broken.

Unique Asian expertise
With its comprehensive suite of digital solutions, ABB is the partner of choice for some of the region’s largest power providers. For instance, Bangkok Glass Public Company (BG) has been working with ABB to further expand its alternative energy supplies, with the opening of a 5MW solar rooftop facility at its factory in Ayutthaya province, Thailand. This will be the largest solar rooftop installation of its kind in the region and marks a significant step forward in the acceptance of self-consumption solar energy models.

Digitalisation holds great promise for the power generation industry in Asia, where increasing productivity, improving efficiency of processes and reducing cost of operations, as well as energy consumption and emissions, are critical. “Innovative companies that approach digitalisation strategically, balancing the short and longer-term objectives of the business, will gain a significant competitive advantage, improving their ability to adapt and thrive,” Theis says.

Another key project is the China Light and Power (CLP) Company`s Guangxi Fangchenggang power plant. This leverages an ABB Ability™ Symphony® Plus system at the plant, controlling two 630MW thermal generating units and enabling operation at ultra-supercritical levels to improve efficiency, whilst also employing flue gas desulphurisation to minimise the environmental impact of using coal.

ABB Ability™ Symphony® Plus was also at the at the heart of a major retrofit for two Philippine geothermal power plants with a total capacity of 200MW. Energy Development Corporation (EDC), the Philippines’ largest geothermal producer, awarded ABB a multi-million dollar contract for the retrofit as well as its new Control System Integration (CSI) for the area control facilities of the two plants.

Taiwan-based SunnyRich, a leading solar system integrator company in the region with a 20MW customer base, is working with the Pingtung County Government to develop a solar powered greenhouse to improve food security, produce healthy crops, and allow the land to recover following a devastating typhoon, which caused severe floods and landslides. In Singapore, international furniture store IKEA has installed a solar rooftop plant at its flagship store.

Across all these high-profile projects, ABB has provided several inverter solutions, including ABB three phase outdoor string inverters for commercial and industrial applications. ABB’s inverter technology increases the system reliability and efficiency of new plants and installations over the complete lifetime of the system for more than 20 years.

“With the cost of renewables, hydro, wind and solar power falling dramatically as capacity factors have soared, many countries across Asia have been quick to uptake across all markets. The growing need for uninterrupted and reliable power supplies is largely being driven by government incentives and the growing prosumer movement in energy, which is now being translated into the commercial world,” Theis notes.

“ABB is writing the future of safe and smart operations by delivering integrated and secure digital solutions to automate operations and optimise performance and sustainability, with unparalleled experience in the energy and water, oil and gas, specialty chemicals and primary pharmaceutical industries,” he adds.

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