The “digitization” of a plant can encompass many technologies including:
- Monitoring and control hardware,
- Computational algorithms to support process control, diagnostics and prognostics,
- The utilization of data management and analytic platforms to support advanced analysis of large data sets,
- Digitization of procedures, drawings, plant equipment and components,
- Use of mobility and digital worker technologies, and
- The use of advanced simulation platforms to evaluate and verify integrated process control solutions over future timescales representative of process dynamics.
Most digital technologies cannot be justified for immediate investment and deployment because some level of adaption, improvement and/or verification is needed to derive tangible and practical benefit for power generation. Traditional methods to mature technologies for full scale deployment can be used for digital technologies so long as the plant dynamics can be reasonably represented. An additional and important aspect of deploying digital technologies is the underlying infrastructure that enables the data management, software and algorithms to interact and exchange information, so the input and output can be automated, and the end user can work effectively with the data and technology.
Typical large-scale power plants have existing data collection, data management and process control systems that amass large amounts of operational data. Manual data collection via operator rounds, is also captured and eventually entered as electronic information. Other forms of data and information are collected and communicated through a variety of disconnected systems including e-mail, phone, text, radio, and paper. Disconnected data sources require substantial time to assemble and aggregate data. Connecting or integrating data sources is a baseline need to support any size effort in advanced analysis, “digitization,” or artificial intelligence effort.
Efforts to streamline processes, manage or reduce costs, support a transitioning workforce, maintain high reliability for equipment, and operate plants in flexible modes are other drivers for utilizing technology that produce actionable information.