ABB’s ‘Collaboration Centre’ makes Industry 4.0 a reality for utilities

ABB has created a working solution for Industry 4.0 with its first 'Collaboration Centre’ for the power generation and water sectors.

Based in Genoa, the Centre aims to provide more efficient and cost-effective operation and maintenance of plants in these sectors. The functionality of the Centre is based on ABB’s Ability platform which essentially uses data monitoring and analytics, along with process expertise, to optimise the way these plants are operated. Ability has been deployed in over 200 sites in other sectors and combines information and control to and from devices throughout a plant and beyond to central control and the cloud.

Susan Peterson, Digital Lead of ABB Power Generation & Water, claimed that closed-loop applications had already yielded ’substantive returns’ and demonstrated this through a case study using a combined cycle unit. “Having a model-predicted control being applied to optimise the life of the HRSG [heat recovery steam generator], because it is the limiting factor, for a start up for a combined cycle, what we calculated was about $5000 in fuel per start”, she explained. “Such a unit typically goes offline every weekend, so that is 50 starts a year and that gets very exciting when you look across a fleet. If you look at 20 units making $250,000 savings a year, that becomes really substantive.”

Moving through the transients in a more effective way during these starts also extends the maintenance intervals. It is estimated that using ABB Ability extends machine life by about 20 per cent.

Peterson added: “In other aspects like Virtual Power Pool, we are actually enabling new power aggregators of small renewable types of contracts to participate in wholesale markets with bigger blocks of wholesale capacity. So some are new revenue opportunities while other are variable cost savings opportunities.”

Using the data available through the Collaboration Centre can also adjust the business use case beyond basic mechanical efficiency, especially as the energy markets are both complex and variable. Peterson continued: “If there is a significant opportunity to sell power at a higher price then you might take that opportunity and forgo generating later on. It’s not just about straight base-load operation. We have the tools to calculate the costs for operating in different modes and by being able to optimise between the constraints we are opening up the doors for our customers. If you have been set up just for base load, it is really hard to do that – What are my costs? What’s going to happen with my maintenance? Can I do this repeatedly? – so I think we are opening up those new modes of operation for our customers.”

ABB anticipates that more Collaboration Centres will open up in the power and water sectors, including directly on customers’ own sites, if required.

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