Control systems are advancing to keep pace with changing turbomachinery needs. Gas turbines are now even being developed to run on hydrogen and control systems will play a major role in enabling these new applications.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), digitalization, microprocessors, new software platforms, the cloud, advanced analytics, machine learning, wireless technology, mobility, connectivity, augmented reality, virtualization, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, big data, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and many other technological advances in the last decade are changing the turbomachinery controls market. Advantages of this technology include remote monitoring and operation, digital twins, remote field service, maintenance automation, real-time plant and fleet management, tighter inventory control, fewer unscheduled outages, and longer plant and equipment lifespans.
A digitalization initiative from Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) is called MHPS-Tomoni, which encompasses controls, instrumentation, data analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI), is aimed at making power plants smarter. The average plant has nearly 10,000 sensors that can generate over a million points of data every minute. MHPS-Tomoni makes oftentimes confusing data useable.
MHPS-Tomoni is a suite of digital solutions that can help to create an increasingly smart power plant that will ultimately become capable of various levels of autonomous operation. Increased digitalization of interconnected devices and systems assists control systems to do more, and interface more effectively with advanced analytics. In parallel, steady advances in CPUs, memory and similar digital building blocks provide the opportunity to increase the capabilities of control systems, while boosting speed and cost-effectiveness.
The IIoT, for example, offers increased availability of smart sensors and smart devices that can provide expanded data for more comprehensive control and protection strategies, as well as analytics that are derived from control system data. MHPS is investigating how to securely use IIoT sensor inputs for critical low latency control system inputs with jamming immunity.
Modern data management and connection protocols and platforms such as the OSISoft PI System have also proven useful in facilitating communication, data sharing and synergistic total plant control strategies among different control systems and programmable logic controllers (PLCs) in the power plant. Similarly, the steady evolution of computer operating systems adds new capabilities to control system software. This can create a challenge, though, in terms of keeping software updated and incorporating the latest security patches for effective cybersecurity.
The cloud, too, facilitates greater use of advanced analytics and machine learning to provide benefits to power plant operations & maintenance (O&M). Cloud-based analytics, diagnostics algorithms and artificial intelligence are providing more powerful computation capabilities. This offers the ability to make fleet-wide correlations that incorporate the operational experience of many similar power plants and support new concepts such as autonomous logistics systems.
All of these advances are taking place at a time when mobility and wireless functionality are facilitating new O&M support applications such as remote support using augmented reality (AR), auxiliary equipment monitoring and autonomous logistics systems to make operational support more productive. Additionally, virtualization has radically changed product lifecycle costs, removed hardware dependencies, and made it easier to provide cyber security and feature enhancements without costly hardware upgrades.
MHPS recently launched its T-Point 2 validation power plant in Takasago, Japan, where the company is in the latest phase of autonomous power plant development. Many MHPS-Tomoni digital solutions were validated at the original T-Point 1. T-Point 2 entered commercial operation with a Netmation 4S control system and more than 20 newly developed digital solutions that support increased autonomy of critical systems and soon the entire plant.
You can find out more about the many other turbomachinery controls offerings out there in the July/Aug 2020 print edition of Turbomachinery International.