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Mar 21, 2019

Advanced Pattern Recognition Transforms Electric Utility Operations

Data Overload

Many utilities track asset data, but what happens when there is so much data that it cannot be properly managed or utilized to its fullest potential?

A US-based utility generating power from coal, natural gas and wind turbine sites managed hundreds of thousands of assets worth a total of over $1 billion. The operations team there was overwhelmed by the enormous volume of data they were collecting from these assets. The team faced three major data-related challenges:

  1. Information overload with no method of putting that data to use.
  2. Difficulty managing the anticipated 50-60 alarms per hour.
  3. No early detection of emerging issues.

The utility set out to find a way to put this data to some good use and enlist a continuous improvement solution. “We were data rich but action poor,” says Kristin C, the predictive maintenance manager at the utility. They decided upon a bundled solution that combined Atonix Digital Monitoring & Diagnostics with Remote Monitoring Services from Black & Veatch.


Risk Detected, Action Taken During Pilot

When analyzing the utility’s asset historical data, an increasing vibration trend was discovered in the cooling tower shaft fan. On closer inspection, engineers found delamination on the fan assembly that, if not addressed, would have resulted in a four-to-five-week outage during the utility’s peak summer season.

If the tower shaft fan assembly had failed, and subsequent damage to adjacent assets occurred, not only would the utility have faced steep repair and materials costs; it would have caused a dire safety issue and likely plant derating.


“Since implementing Monitoring & Diagnostics, we’ve discovered three more issues, nearly identical to this one,” states Kristin. “All those failure scenarios combined would have cost us around $120,000.”


Revenue-Impacting Wind-Turbine Defects Found

While Black & Veatch’s monitoring and diagnostics team was examining 33 of the utility’s wind turbines, they identified two that had defective anemometers resulting in overpitching and underperformance. These defects equated to $20,000 in lost revenue per year per turbine.


Analytics as a Business Strategy

With the Atonix Digital Monitoring & Diagnostics tool being successfully and ubiquitously run throughout the utility’s operations, the utility’s managers have begun evaluating more advanced sensors that offer richer performance data and alarm banding, allowing them to see issues in real time.

The ability to see current and comprehensive asset data is critical for operations managers. A valuable feature within Monitoring & Diagnostics allows users to email graphs and reports directly from the software interface. As the discussion thread takes shape, this conversation is captured directly within the software, creating an easy-to-reference library of data as it pertains to a particular asset.

The Atonix Monitoring and Diagnostics tool collects sensor, device and subsystem data across an operational ecosystem. It applies machine learning to benchmark healthy operational behavior patterns, alerts personnel of anomalies and makes it easy to identify and diagnose problems. With the hybrid solution from Atonix Digital and Black & Veatch, operations managers can achieve greater peace of mind by improving decision making and reducing risks, ultimately improving ROI.


Read the full client story and learn more about Monitoring & Diagnostics.