If we talk about the coverage of power facilities with automation in general, it is difficult to objectively assess it, since in recent years hundreds of new power facilities have already been introduced in both generation and grids within the framework of Russia's energy policy. A reconstruction of old facilities is underway, taking into account the technical and economic feasibility of upgrading in each case. A team of specialists gathered at Incontrol LLC from 1994 to the present has implemented more than 170 new construction and modernization projects at more than 70 power plants using three-generation automation technology. It is fair to note that in the age of information technology it is difficult to imagine the commissioning of new energy facilities without the use of modern automation tools. The common trend towards energy efficiency continues for all energy sectors in the country, and the use of modern automation systems and so-called smart technologies is one of the main tools to achieve this. Therefore, it can be argued that the degree of coverage of modern automation systems is growing steadily.
However, with a sufficient degree of "renewal" of the Russian energy, it is appropriate to recall the old worldly wisdom that quantity does not always mean quality. It is important to have not just a “smart”, but also an effective system. To implement a truly modern automation system, it is not enough just to have a modern database of software and hardware tools. Twenty five years of experience of the Incontrol LLC team in the field of automation of power equipment shows that to automate complex processes, which include, among other things, electricity and heat generation processes, it is necessary to apply such solutions which, being based on achievements of electronics, information technology, theory and practices of control systems, technological fundamentals of control, are at the same time typical and proven.
The problem of quality and efficiency of systems is an old, well-known problem that has several main reasons, in particular:
- First, unfortunately, not all new facilities use automation systems of the latest generations, which have a wide range of consumer properties. Sometimes it is explained by technical and economic expediency in the eye of the customer, and sometimes some suppliers and developers of control systems which get on the power market of Russia, simply use technical means and solutions that do not meet the tasks. This applies to both domestic and foreign manufacturers.
- secondly, a single chain of the process of creating control systems, often consisting of process problem statements, hardware design, application software development, installation and commissioning, is often broken. Broken links leads to the creation of defective systems that do not meet the system expectations.
- thirdly, it is necessary to bring the system to the desired level of quality for a long period during normal operation in conjunction with the customer's staff. Unfortunately, today the practice of the trial operation has practically disappeared. After commissioning, the power facility immediately is put into commercial operation, under which, as a rule, the customer only requests the developers of the ACS to eliminate serious disturbances under warranty obligations, and it almost never comes to increasing the level of automation, continuous optimization and increased usability with the accumulation of operating experience.
Thus, one of the modern trends that we observe today is the growing need for author's supervision and continuous optimization of automation systems, especially in the first years after commissioning in the process of mastering all operating conditions.
For local control systems supplied by manufacturers, the problem of the need to optimize the control system after commissioning the facility, it would seem, should be absent, since the standard process equipment is usually supplied with a typical standard system brought by the developer to the required level of quality. However, in recent years, the problem of uniformity of means of the "man–machine" communication (interfaces) within one power facility has become increasingly obvious. The use of several different control systems for the same object is not only inconvenient in terms of the lack of a single interface and archive, but also dangerous due to possible errors of personnel due to significant differences in the solutions taken within the framework of individual systems. In such situations, when there is no possibility to implement all control systems of a power facility using similar means, the practice of attracting an experienced Russian company to the organization of full-scale integration of all local systems into a top-level process control system is becoming generally accepted, which makes it possible to unify work in the operational circuit.
Another difficulty faced by both the user and the developer of automated systems is the speed of development of the IT industry. It is obvious that the automation equipment used in power units that were installed fifteen years ago is becoming obsolete by today. At the same time, the owner of the power facility traditionally faces, on the one hand, the need to use such distributed control systems (DCS), whose life cycle corresponds to the economic life of the main power equipment (and this is at least fifteen to twenty years), and on the other hand, the rapidly developing IT industry. The resulting problem is the support and development of distributed control systems for a long time (by the standards of the IT industry). In this regard, the need of owners of power facilities for expert support by qualified personnel to ensure the life cycle of systems is increasing.
For example, for power generation facilities where the Incontrol LLC team has accumulated the most experience, there are all opportunities to increase the level of automation and to obtain significant technical and economic effect. In order to implement such opportunities, it is necessary to pay more attention to the following:
- try to focus all stages of the creation and implementation of control systems on the area of responsibility of one qualified contractor;
- to minimize the variety of systems within one facility and to abolish the vicious practice of the implementation of local ACSs, designed without taking into account the common requirements for the entire I&C system of the facility;
- to implement the understanding that the presence of a control system does not guarantee the expected functionality and efficiency, requires the efforts of specialists and time to bring the system to a reasonable efficiency;
- to realize that large systems, which include, in particular, modern I&C systems of power units, require support, first of all, from the point of view of development and maintenance of the life cycle, so that reliability, fault tolerance and security remain in the rapidly changing world of IT.
Service Director of Incontrol LLC.