Monthly Archives: March 2009

Heat Rate Improvement

Another good post on Heat Rate Improvement programs from EnergyPulse:

How to Build a Successful Heat Rate Improvement Program

Some of the comments after the article note that just watching heat rate is an ‘old paradigm’… but, sometimes the oldies are also goodies. In today’s world of automation, we are all susceptible to relying too much on technology and forgetting to think for ourselves.

In a world where many people will blindly follow whatever road their GPS takes them down, knowing how to read a map can still come in handy. Just recently, when asked to take us to the nearest Sonic Drive-in, our “Neverlost” system took us to the middle of an exclusive residential area where there were no restaurants for miles. We were lucky to get turned around and out of the neighborhood before the local sheriff showed up to escort us back to our hotel.

Had we known the general direction of the nearest strip mall, we might have questioned the GPS’s directions, and opted for the second Sonic on the list instead. But, we trusted the automation, and ended up on the wrong side of town. Luckily, not the wrong side of the tracks!

When controlling your equipment, knowledge of the process and expected trends in performance are essential to following the correct optimization recommendations. Automation and optimization systems for process control may work flawlessly 99% of the time, but that last 1%, when they take you in the opposite direction from intended they can potentially undo all the value of the other 99% – depending on the timing and source of the mis-calculation.

Automation systems are at the mercy of their incoming data. When a meter drifts or fails, the automation system may not recognize the error immediately. Recommendations for changes in control settings may go against the control room operator’s best judgment. If the operator blindly allows the plant to follow the automation signals, heat rate may be only one of the resulting casualties.

Continuous heat rate improvement programs need human involvement. This includes operators tracking real-time performance, maintenance and I&C personnel making sure data signals are accurate, and engineers supporting periodic detailed evaluations and capital improvement projects. Heat rate improvement is best accomplished as a team activity.

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