Published by Putnam Media, Plant Services reaches over 35,000 manufacturing plants across all U.S. processing and OEM industries, including utilities and power generation facilities. Its mission is to chronicle how American industry leaders are "continuously retrofitting, updating, and redesigning their existing facilities with up-to-date technology," in pursuit of reduced downtime, increased up-time, and therefore greater profits.
Nowhere does performance matter more than in the electrical industry, where downtime at a large natural gas power plant can cost $11,000 an hour. Yes, that's $264,000 a day.
At the height of its success in 2004, San Jose-based Calpine Corp. had 92 energy centers in 21 states , Canada, and the United Kingdom, with a combined capacity of 22,000 MW. It was two years previously that Calpine fully embraced predictive maintenance (PdM) as the way to maximize profitability. This is well documented by Kevin Nordenstrom, Calpine's predictive maintenance engineering manager, in his 2005 Plant Services feature, "Forced outages and MRO costs reduced with PdM."
"with this much potential profit at stake," Nordenstrom wrote, "maintaining energy production, reducing forced outages (caused by unplanned shutdowns, or equipment failure), and avoiding generator deratings (when a unit fails to deliver power at its rated capacity) are top priorities for management and employees alike."
After considerable in-plant research and considerations of all its options, Calpine installed its condition-based maintenance Enshare system in 66 of its U.S. plants, achieving "nearly $1 million in cost savings" annually. Seasoned maintenance personnel at each plant conducted vibration analysis "on equipment deemed critical to maintaining production, including gas turbines, steam turbines, cooling fans, and critical oil and water pumps."
Determining which equipment should be monitored was relatively simple: if it could cause expensive downtime, either through failure, or due to the high cost of replacement, it was deemed worth monitoring.
"My team of eight PdM engineers and technicians perform different PdM activities at each of the plants," Nordenstrom recorded, "including vibration analysis, online motor analysis, off-line motor analysis, as well as infrared thermography, and lubrication and transfer oil analysis....This computes to approximately 600 points of data collected at each of the...plants that have enrolled in the PdM program."
Vibration readings were collected monthly with hand-held data collectors. "With this information, the team can analyze potential problems and recommend corrective actions before performance is affected."
The overall result? For the last two quarters for which PdM savings were recorded, the "documented cost avoidance...exceeded $1.5 million."
"Overall, the maintenance program...enabled Calpine to maximize system reliability by identifying, and correcting, potential problems before a forced outage occurs, or production is interrupted;" Nordenstrom concluded, enabling its natural gas, and geothermal steam power plants to "...carefully plan, and time, equipment repair, and replacement, to avoid any sudden process interruptions."
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