Roadmapping Efficiency Improvements

Utilities Middle East magazine had a recent interview with Emerson’s Jeff Householder. Jeff is based in Dubai and leads the Systems and Solutions efforts for the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region.

This Q&A article explores Jeff views on the outlook for the power and water utilities industry in the MEA region. Unlike other process manufacturing industries and world areas, the MEA power and water industry enjoyed growth in 2009 and expects this growth to continue into 2010. On the prospects for 2010, Jeff responds:

There is substantial investment across the region. Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in modernisation of their power plants. We see Kuwait entering a similar phase for power and water. Egypt has consistently invested over the last several years and we see this continuing. The UAE is investing in new plants and modernization, driven by their growth in population and industry.

Like many industries, there is focus on optimizing plant operations and finding ways to avoid unplanned shutdowns. Technologies like high-speed digital communications (Foundation fieldbus, HART 7) and wireless process control instrumentation play an important role, but also important is to:

…work collaboratively with our customers to help develop plant management philosophies based on the increased plant intelligence to assist in creating a roadmap for the plant.

Jeff notes that the process control devices and systems often have the embedded functionality to support optimization and efficiency-related projects, but the “…roadmap drives increased plant performance.” In other words, the technology investment is often already in place, but the roadmap plan helps drive the focused efforts required to realize the value through optimization and efficiency.

Energy efficiency projects have grown in number due to utility competition and recent rises in fuel prices. Jeff notes:

Performance efficiencies are mainly sought within a plant’s main process areas such as boilers, turbines, condensers, and large pump/motor skids. For plants with multiple units, a more technically advanced plant-wide program is available which prioritizes efficiencies across multiple units. Such optimisation is achieved by developing working models of each unit’s specific operational characteristics and the facilities overall economic drivers.

On a question about the acceptance of wireless field instrumentation among utilities, Jeff shares:

We have seen a significant amount of interest in wireless in utilities. Considering that wireless adapters (THUM) can be retrofitted to devices already installed in the field, networked and transmitted to the central asset management system, there are many opportunities for non-invasive application of the technology. Certain areas in the facility that are challenging from the health and safety aspects are normally targeted for use of wireless technology.

Jeff offers sound guidance on collaboration with automation suppliers on developing a plant roadmap to use the current automation technologies to improve efficiency and reduce unplanned shutdowns–no matter what your industry or world location happens to be.

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