Power plant managers have to do a balancing act, juggling multiple things in order to keep their plants running efficiently and keeping stakeholders happy.
The trouble is, there are so many problems a plant manager faces on a day-to-day basis that it can be difficult to keep on top of them all.
Finding solutions to common problems is a major part of a plant manager’s job. Here are two common problems plant managers face and how they can potentially be solved.
Delivering Adequate Power While Meeting Regulations
One major challenge that has faced the power sector – particularly the coal industry – has been dealing with carbon emissions and regulations that govern pollutants.
Regulations have eased up under the Trump administration, but there are still a lot of hoops to jump through for power plants that were put into place by the Obama administration. There’s no guarantee that they will be even more relaxed in the future. In fact, with this administration’s political future being up in the air from this year’s midterms to 2020’s presidential election, more regulations could be on their way over the next 3-5 years.
One way coal plants have been dealing with emissions is by incorporating renewables into the conversation. There are two types of fuel that are now in the mix as co-firing solutions: natural gas and biomass.
The price of natural gas continues to climb from its floor in spring 2016 as demand rises. Biomass can be more affordable and more reliable, and since it’s a carbon-neutral resource, it is also a better option for emissions controls.
For these reasons, coal boilers are either being adapted into co-firing boilers with biomass or altogether converted to biomass boilers.
Maintaining Efficiency with Aging Equipment
When it comes to coal power plants, most of them are old. Approximately 88% of coal-fired capacity in the United States was built in a 40-year period between 1950 and 1990. The average age of a coal plant is 39 years.
As it ages, equipment lowers efficiency and results in bottom-line profit loss because plant managers have to spend more on repairing and replacing equipment. This is partly due to the reactive mindset many managers have toward maintenance; they only fix things when they break.
Adopting a proactive, preventative maintenance mindset can help keep up efficiency and lower the overall repair bill, while also decreasing the chance of unplanned shutdowns.
Technology can be utilized that continuously monitors the performance and integrity of a piece of equipment, alerting personnel to a problem before it turns into a big one. Technology and advances in engineering can also ensure that your equipment performs better than before through retrofits and upgrades.
Preventative maintenance even takes less time than reactive maintenance and repairs.
Between preventative maintenance and exploring biomass as a viable co-firing option, plant managers can deal with two of the biggest challenges to the performance of their plants.
ProcessBarron engineers, constructs, and installs air, ash, and material handling equipment for coal power plants. Contact the team for more information.