Category Archives: Performance Monitoring

Fuel Metering!

I’m reminded again about the importance of instrumentation.

Fuel metering – especially billing meters – are expected to be infallable. But I’ve just seen another case where the revenue class meter is not reading correctly. And this is not the first time this year this problem has come up.

It’s important to have backup metering for your fuel bill in order to know that your bill is accurate – and to help alert you to when any of your meters on site may need attention.

Often it’s the plant’s gas turbine meters that are required to be calibrated every year for emissions reporting… but the billing meter only gets looked at if someone asks. So, I recommend you keep tabs on those billing meters and if something looks strange – ask!

And, on a performance note – if your fuel flow metering is off, your reported heat rate will also be off. For some of you this is just an accounting problem, but for others, this may impact your dispatchability in the future.

I am available to help with fuel flow calculations, and have add-ins to support flow calculations and fuel properties within Excel. If you have any questions – please ask me, I’m here to help!

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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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41 days and counting…

…to the next T2E3 LM6000 Performance seminar.

This year, the seminar will be held in Palm Springs, CA; at the same location as the WTUI conference.

We will spend 2 days discussing the performance characteristics of the GE aeroderivative gas turbines – mostly the LM6000. 

LM6000 units PA through PG will all be discussed – although the focus will be on units which are applicable to the people in attendance (which is expected to be PC and PD).  The impact of Chillers, SPRINT and DLN will be covered as well.

The seminar includes some hands-on exercises for taking measured performance and correcting it to reference conditions, as well as exercises for predicting performance (output and heat rate) for tomorrow’s forecast weather conditions.

Other items covered in the seminar include instrumentation required for performance testing and performance monitoring, and what is included in an ASME code-level performance test (following ASME PTC-22).


More details, including a full agenda are on the website:

You can also ask questions here in the comments, or you can send them to me direct at

If you miss the seminar, but attend WTUI – please stop by for a chat.  I’ll have a booth in the exhibit hall and also plan to attend all the conference sessions as well.

See you in 41 days… and counting!

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Training in Performance Monitoring

Since I will be out of the office this week to deliver some training in performance monitoring systems – I was wondering… how often do you participate in training?
What type of training to you participate in?
Are there subjects you’d like to learn more about where training is not currently available?

The training program I’m delivering this week is a custom agenda for a private client. It will be geared toward helping the operations staff understand what their particular performance monitoring system (McHale Performance’s TEMPO system) is supposed to be doing for them – and how the operators can interact with the system to get the information they need. The goal of the training is to provide the operators with the tools and information they need to improve the performance of the plant.

If you’re interested in this type of training (or even this type of performance monitoring system), please let me know.

How often to you participate in Training?

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Central performance monitoring makes the grade

I highly recommend reading this month’s Power Magazine – especially the article starting on page 66; Entergy’s ‘big catch”.  It’s a great example of how performance monitoring – with all the best tools and personnel – can make a huge impact on a plant’s performance and, more importantly for many, it’s reliability.

Most notably, the company in the article (Entergy) had setup a central performance monitoring and diagnostic center, where they had 24×7 support for equipment monitoring. The central staff was looking for performance losses, but also at reliability issues, such as increases in vibrations, temperatures, and other parameters which might indicate an imminent failure. The plant staff soon learned that this central group of professionals was there “not looking over their shoulder, but rater, watching their back.”

For a lot of plants, a central diagnostic center may be financially out of reach – although, when you consider the potential savings in forced outages and maintenance costs, it’s harder to make that argument. But, any additional observations you can make will support increased intelligence of plant operation which can lead to finding that abnormal condition before a catastrophic event occurs.

Just constantly trending your overall net heat rate in real time, where the control room operator can view it as time allows, will start the ball rolling. It’s not much – but it’s something. Small Steps. Kaizen. Once real time heat rate is being consistently monitored, you’ll start to see why a corrected heat rate can be helpful – changes in heat rate at full load become more apparent when corrected to a common baseline conditions.

Setting up a corrected heat rate trend does not need to be a large undertaking. Some information from the OEMs may be necessary, but again, taken in small steps, it can be fit into nearly any operating budget – and the time to payback is often very short. Errors in fuel metering are commonly found once heat rate is scrutinized relative to a set of reference conditions. Bad heat rate assumptions can lead to poor dispatch assumptions – which lead to operating in poor markets, or not operating in profitable ones.

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Five Steps

Five Steps to a More Efficient Plant

1.  Increase performance awareness,

2.  Analyze your expected equipment performance,

3.  Execute a performance test to baseline your unit,

4.  Monitor your equipment for changes in performance,

5.  Repeat.

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Reduce CO2 by Improving Performance

or… Improve Performance by Reducing CO2

As the framework for carbon cap-&-trade programs is developed, more people are starting to look for where we can reasonably hope to cut CO2 and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – quickly.

The most obvious way to stop emitting GHG, is to stop burning carbon-based fuels, such as natural gas, coal and oil.   And, there are many, many demand-side conservation programs in place, which are making a significant impact on reducing the amount of energy required for many processes.  But, I think we could all agree, that very few of us, if any, are willing to turn off the lights completely to reduce GHG.  So, how else can we reduce fuel consumption? 

By reducing supply-side GHG generation.  Reduce the amount of fuel per kWh generated. 

Which is exactly what improving heat rate does for existing generation facilities.  It reduces the amount of fuel burned (and GHG produced) per kWh generated.  There is a wealth of CO2 reduction potential in our existing power generation assets in the US.

As Steve Stallard points out in his article at EnergyCentral, performance monitoring programs on one way to not only improve your plant economics – but also to reduce your CO2 emissions.

Performance monitoring programs can point out where you are losing efficiency in your power generation facility; how your operators can make small changes which improve efficiency; and what you can expect from capital improvements in terms of increased capacity, reduced heat rate and reduced GHG emissions.

Now, if we could only get the regulations adjusted, such that new capacity at existing facilities – at improved heat rates – are not “new sources”, just better sources. 

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