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February 2004

PF 04-02 Profiles
Upgrading instrumentation and control in
coal-fired plant
‘Effectual I&C systems are ‘Upgrading I&C improves ‘The main driver for an
essential for safe, plant availability/reliability, upgrade is system
economic and reliable flexibility, maintainability obsolescence and the
operation of plant’ and/or efficiency’ main barrier is cost’
A modern, advanced instrumentation controllers where a control strategy is conduct open discussions of existing
and control (I&C) system, an integral activated based on the received values plant problems.
part of any power station, plays a major and the response moves to final ● Close co-ordination and co-operation
role in the profitable operation of a actuating control elements. This loop between plant owner/operator and
plant. In a previous IEA Clean Coal repeats over and over during plant supplier/vendor during planning,
Centre review by Nalbandian (2001) on operation through a complex and multi- implementation, testing and
the status of I&C in existing coal-fired level communications schemes. optimisation. It would be
power plant, brief references were made When a project is proposed for advantageous to establish a small
to the effects of upgrading such upgrading I&C, in general, management owner/supplier team with the
systems. The following environmental insists on some form of return-on- capacity and authority to take and
and fuel cost benefits were reported investment analysis before expending implement decisions.
following the upgrading of a vintage the capital. In some upgrades, specific ● The majority of control system
I&C system in a 500 MWe coal-fired promises are made such as ‘the changes modifications and expansions
unit: are expected to improve heat rate by, should, for the most part, be carried
● up to 1% improvement in efficiency for example, 200 kJ/kWh' or ‘load- out while the plant remains on-line,
which yields significant savings in following ability will be enhanced by whereas critical changes should be
fuel costs as well as reducing air 20%’ or ‘steam temperature control will made during scheduled outages/
pollutant emissions; be improved by 2°C’. Most utilities down-times.
● additional benefits include up to 1% may go a step further and translate ● The operating staff should be
reduction in both greenhouse gases these promises into expected cost provided with both constant
and solid wastes; savings. Some even try to audit the information and the opportunity to
● 1% increase in availability resulting actual versus expected savings, after the participate, actively, in the upgrade
in additional capacity (kWh/y) for upgrade project is completed. However, process. This raises the level of
sale hence improving plant those that try, typically, concede failure acceptance and identification with
profitability. as they cannot quantify the the new solutions.
This report provides an overview of improvements due to lack of baseline ● Extensive changes in control modes,
power plant instrumentation that are conditions and information, if a along with associated operations
used to measure the values of relevant baseline was established to begin with. backup mechanisms, improve
parameters, and control systems, which Apart from the technical solutions considerably the expertise and the
maintain the optimum operation of the implemented and achieved as a part of skill level of the operating staff.
power generation components such as a plant automation upgrade, there are ● Willingness on the part of the
boilers and turbines. All I&C devices also non-technical factors that are supplier to plan for a potentially
can be included in one of the following crucial if I&C upgrade projects are to longer project run-time in order to
categories: be carried out successfully including: carry out major modifications
● sensors (including signal conversion ● Detailed analysis of the processes gradually or in small steps. This is
equipment); involved; a joint pre-study essential if plant operations are to
● controllers (including associated (feasibility study), which includes remain largely undisturbed and if the
control logic and operator interface evaluating plant disturbances and changes are to be transparent.
stations); performing test runs. Drivers and barriers to upgrading
● actuation devices (including ● Readiness/willingness on the part of existing I&C with advanced systems in
positioners). the operating staff to perform critical existing coal-fired power plants, in
The I&C chain begins with sensors reviews of existing control methods, several countries, are investigated. The
that carry measured values to to change these if necessary, and to main drivers for the upgrade were
found to be, in general, system Seventeen case studies are
obsolescence followed by the number undertaken in the review presenting
of operators required to run the existing experience with I&C upgrades in
system. Other drivers are discussed in existing coal-fired power plants in nine
the report. Based on communications countries. The results indicate that
with I&C system vendors, drivers upgrading I&C system can be cost-
behind upgrading I&C also include effective and amortisation, in some
reducing life cycle and plant cases, can be achieved within two to
maintenance costs as well as emissions five years due to higher availability,
to the environment. They also include flexibility or even efficiency of plant as
the ability to fire different coals and well as reduced maintenance costs and
manage the load changes characteristic extended intervals between inspections
of some coal-fired power plants. The and outages. Upgrading the I&C
results of the upgrades could include systems of an older power plant can
reduction in fuel cost as well as have many important benefits, in most
emissions of CO2 and other air cases non-measurable and hence non-
pollutants such as particulate matter, quantifiable. These include:
SO2 and NOx, improved plant ● improved operating flexibility, that
availability, profitability and impact on is, the ability to meet a wider range IEA Clean Coal Centre is a
power plant lifetime. of operating conditions more collaborative project of member
The main barrier encountered is cost. effectively; countries of the International
Other barriers include lack of quantified ● reduced maintenance costs through Energy Agency (IEA) to provide
I&C upgrade benefits and justification better monitoring of plant equipment information about and analysis of
for a system upgrade. A further barrier condition and an enhanced ability to coal technology, supply and use.
encountered is the operator’s comfort of detect equipment malfunctions; The service is governed by
using a proven and reliable system ● reduced emissions of greenhouse representatives of eight countries
added to the additional learning barrier gases and air pollutants through (Austria, Canada, Italy, Japan, the
required in order to become involved in better control of the combustion Netherlands, Sweden, the United
installing and running a new system. process and of environmental control Kingdom and the USA) and the
One way of dealing with this is that, equipment; European Commission.
sometimes, the system is upgraded but ● extended equipment life through the
the old control algorithms are used to reduction of excessive equipment
reduce cost as well as training operating stress.
requirements. In cases such as these no Specific environmental and even
reduction in staff numbers are achieved financial benefits due to an I&C system
but training is increased. upgrade, although acknowledged and
The average life of a modern I&C accepted, are in general rarely measured
varies from 10 to 15 years for PC-based or quantified. The financial benefits,
systems, and 15 to 20 years for which are mostly estimated and, on
proprietary DCS systems. Payback on a occasion quantified, can range from
complete (new) I&C system, including 100,000 US$/y to 1 million US$/y. As
all instrumentation apparatus, control other plant modifications are invariably
tools and algorithms can take up to carried out in conjunction with a controls
30 years. Payback on investment in upgrade, it is practically impossible to
partial upgrade of systems can range carry out an accurate assessment and
from two years to the lifetime of the allocate exact monetary values to the
upgraded technology, depending on benefits of the new I&C system.
level of upgrade and complexity. Cost of
upgrading I&C in coal-fired plant ranges Each issue of Profiles is based on a Gemini House
from US$1 million to US$6 million. detailed study undertaken by IEA 10-18 Putney Hill
In the past few decades and to-date, Coal Research, the full report of London SW15 6AA
governments and industries devoted which is available separately. This United Kingdom
considerable resources toward the particular issue of Profiles is based on
development of advanced power the report: Tel: +44 (0)20 8780 2111
systems and emission control Fax: +44 (0)20 8780 1746
technologies. An area that has received Upgrading instrumentation and e-mail:
relatively little attention is I&C. control in coal-fired plant > Internet:
Increasingly, however, cost-effective Herminé Nalbandian
electricity generation is becoming CCC/80, ISBN 92-9029-395-0, 52 pp,
critically dependent on detailed data January 2004, £255*/£85†/£42.50‡
collection, close process control and * non-member countries
predictive response methodologies, † member countries
necessitating greater research and ‡ educational establishments within member
investment in this field.