Connected Plant 2019  ‘Game Changers’: The People Behind Digital Innovation

Behind the digital tools that make the industrial internet of things (IIOT) in the power generation and chemical process industries are people. The upcoming Connected Plant Conference—Feb. 19–21, 2019, in Charlotte, North Carolina—will recognize the achievements of 11 individuals and companies who are fast risers in the field. Through insight and experience, these “Game Changer” champions have contributed to innovation, solved problems, or made extraordinary improvements.

Pioneering Wireless Power Plant Solutions

Robinson Castillo, Senior Power Generation and Distribution Controls Engineer, Florida Power & Light Co.

Industrial wireless transmitters and networks have been in use for more than a decade, and today, WirelessHART installations lead the way. But helping to launch the widespread adoption of this digital technology wasn’t easy, recalls Robinson Castillo, a senior power generation and distribution controls engineer at FPL, NextEra Energy’s sizable subsidiary. It took substantial effort to convince the conservative power generation industry of the myriad benefits wireless could offer and overcome skepticism that arose from prior efforts that did not fully pay off. Robinson’s solution was to prove the value of the technology by addressing an existing pain point with a wireless solution. In this case, it was the need to monitor the position of 90 control valves used to regulate natural gas and steam flows associated with the plant’s Mitsubishi turbines. Wired control signals to the valves were part of the original design, but wired feedback from the valves to indicate position was not. Successful completion of that project led to other pivotal power plant solutions, including another innovative digital project to continuously monitor emissions on a plant’s exhaust stacks. These successes gave rise to new wireless projects throughout the entire NextEra Energy fleet of plants, which will result in substantial improvements to operations and safety, all at a fraction of the cost of a traditional wired solution.

Streamlining Cyber Risk Assessments 

Ted Gutierrez, CEO and Co-founder, SecurityGate

Cyber risk assessments for industrial facilities are mandatory, but traditional methods can be inefficient, expensive, and inadequate, owing to the complex management of evolving threats and compliance rules. Assessments are often done through manually aggregated spreadsheets, which means there are often numerous versions of the “final” information dispersed across email strings with attachments that never fully synch. A solution pioneered by cybersecurity firm SecurityGate promises to change that by empowering organizations to complete cyber risk assessments 10 times faster than manual methods. A key aspect of this solution is the firm’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform, which provides a single location to view, compare, manage, validate, remediate, and store historical cyber risk data insights for organizations, their vendors, and/or clients.

Collaboration Transforms Analytics at a Chemicals Firm 

Jonathan Alexander, Operations Engineer, Albemarle Corp.

Leading two specialty chemical plants within Albemarle, a global specialty chemicals firm, to successfully implement real-time analytics required solid initiative and organizational skills, and Jonathan Alexander achieved it through an innovative, holistic approach. Alexander’s process began with inviting input from operators and supervisory personnel in selecting the process variables to analyze—and more importantly—to determine how to respond to analytics-based signals. The cooperative development bore many fruits, among them, consensus to implement basic univariate analytics methods and to limit project scope to specific processes and process units with the greatest need and potential value. The end result: A solid analytics foundation. But it also forged a formidable analytics culture that became essential for future projects, which included creating and deploying multivariate models for processes and process units that required a more sophisticated analytics approach to fully realize the value of applied analytics. Gain some of Alexander’s wisdom at the Connected Plant Conference—Feb. 19–21, 2019, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Digitalizing Industrial Expert Knowledge 

Amber Hayton, Manufacturing Learning Advisor—Commercial, Margin Optimisation, and Operational Mastery, Royal Dutch Shell

Massive energy company Royal Dutch Shell stays at the forefront of digitalization efforts through strategic training efforts, which were traditionally provided through face-to-face classroom learning from subject matter experts. But when the firm faced retirement of key trainers, Amber Hayton spearheaded and managed development of a unique effort to digitalize their expert knowledge. The effort involved working with engineering technology provider AVEVA. The result: a virtual reality (VR) learning platform that offers a learning experience that is fully experiential and digital. To make it globally applicable, Royal Dutch Shell is building this VR application for both local and cloud use.

Digitizing a Power Plant to Bolster Safety and Reliability

Johnny Howze, Plant Manager, Georgia Power Co.

Turning Georgia Power’s 1982-built Plant Scherer—the largest coal-fired power plant in the country—into a connected plant of the future required a grand vision. As Johnny Howze, who pioneered the effort, sees it, digitization should have two non-negotiable functions, that it creates an environment centered around safety and reliability. Howze’s principles on which the successful vision is based: The need to prepare the workforce of tomorrow, and the need for deep insight, using digital tools, into plant processes.

A Power Company’s Dedicated Division for Connected Plant Efforts

Asset Management Office, Senior Technology Lead and Team, Nova Scotia Power

As Nova Scotia Power, Emera’s vertically integrated electric utility in Nova Scotia, Canada, set out on its digitalization journey five years ago, it created a unique division, the Asset Management Office (AMO), and tasked it with managing integration of the ever-growing body of data from third-party engineering companies, its 12-hour electronic operator rounds, the company’s cloud-based maintenance management systems, and other planning systems. The efforts yielded a novel system that includes predictive models, which give power plant personnel key insight into potential problems and help them make sound capital planning and investment decisions. The AMO has since racked up several industry awards for its efforts. Last year, owing to this business solution’s resounding success, the company gave the AMO jurisdiction over asset management of the company’s transmission and distribution side, and the office has been rebranded as the Enterprise Asset Management Office.

Learn how this innovative division functions and how it uniquely uses digitization for asset management at the Connected Plant Conference, Feb. 19–21, 2019, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Spearheading a Global Alliance to Ensure Trust and Security of Digitalization

Leo Simonovich, Vice President and Global Head, Industrial Cyber and Digital Security, Siemens Energy

Siemens Energy, a major vendor for global critical infrastructure, including power, and oil and gas sectors, considers sound cybersecurity such a pivotal part of unlocking the potential of industrial digitalization, it spearheaded the “Charter of Trust.” The global alliance, whose participants today include several major companies with high stakes in industrial processes, is dedicated to developing and implementing rules for secure networking. The Charter promotes 10 cyber principles that could enhance trust in and security of a digital future. Leo Simonovich, who is responsible for the overall direction of Siemens cybersecurity efforts for Siemens Energy, has led efforts to develop Siemens global Charter of Trust cybersecurity framework.

A Much-Needed Focus on Safety in Energy Storage

Nexceris Sensors Group, Nexceris LLC.

Nexceris, a firm that offers high-performance sensors and monitoring systems for a broad range of applications, launched a novel sensor that monitors emissions that come from lithium-ion batteries when they are faulty. The Li-Ion Tamer sensor, which can cut current to the battery before it starts a fire, is poised to revolutionize the safety aspect of energy storage.

Learn more at the upcoming Connected Plant Conference—Feb. 19–21, 2019, in Charlotte, North Carolina—about the enhanced safety that is enabled through off-gas detection in lithium-ion battery systems and how it can add additional layers of safety to protect systems from thermal runaway and propagation.

Removing Barriers for Increased Monitoring 

Development Team, ProAxion, Inc.

An innovative startup, ProAxion designed and developed the TACTIX system, which uniquely and drastically simplifies the process of measuring, transmitting, and analyzing vibration and temperature data for remote monitoring of rotating machines. The quick and easy plug-and-play installation removes many of the barriers of entrance into a wide variety of manufacturing facilities, because it requires zero-integration with control systems or IT networks. Leveraging the latest in IoT technology, ProAxion has found a way to expand the number of machines that can have complete, year-round health monitoring. Because the ProAxion wireless TACTIX sensor measures three-axis vibration, it nixes the need for big, expensive monitoring systems that are often tied to the most critical machines. Benefits include less equipment downtime, fewer accidents, and reduced manufacturing costs. Learn how ProAxion has saved customers hundreds of thousands of dollars using this solution at the upcoming Connected Plant Conference, Feb. 19–21, 2019, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Spearheading a Major Utility’s Digital Transformation 

Mike Reid, General Manager, Technical Programs, Fossil Hydro Group, Duke Energy

Duke Energy, the largest utility in the U.S., began its digital transformation years ago under the leadership of Michael Reid, who is today responsible for partnering with internal business units to develop standardized, cost-effective technology solutions to continuously improve process efficiency and equipment reliability. The approach has been successful, and Duke Energy continues to apply developments with sensors, computing, and communication technology to create value with smart, connected power plant assets. Reid is also a proponent of big data and analytics, which he says provide insight and drive actionable intelligence. Reid has said Duke Energy looks at its program as empowering “smart, connected power plants and assets. It’s an exercise in big data management. In order to do that you have to get people to act on that information.”

Leveraging a Digital Platform to Enhance Fleet Performance

Joan Knight, Innovation Director, Exelon Nuclear

Grant Brummels, Senior Manager, Corporate Engineering, Exelon

Exelon—a company that owns more than 35 GW of generating capacity—has leveraged capabilities offered by GE’s digital platform Predix to boost performance and reliability of much of its generating portfolio. Solutions the Innovation team developed under Joan Knight’s leadership include deployment of an asset performance management (APM) module across all its nuclear sites. While the team faced challenges in integrating some data from its plants (owing to size and complexity of data sets), the module is expected to help optimize nuclear plant asset management—and ultimately reduce equipment and consequential failures, scrams, improve thermal performance, and tamp down maintenance costs. The Innovation team is now preparing to deploy a new, diverse set of modules. These include modules to provide data-rich reliability management and analysis of outage milestones and schedule oversight. Exelon has meanwhile piloted a solution (and other pilots are scheduled later this year) to identify equipment performance issues during nuclear plant startups and shutdowns. The company is also now working with GE to develop a solution that uses a predictive data analytics model to provide advanced warning of when a site is at an elevated risk for performance problems, along with diagnosis of the organizational areas driving the risk levels.

At the same time, Exelon is rolling out GE Predix APM modules across its fossil generation fleet under the leadership of Grant Brummels. Once fully deployed, which is planned by mid-year, the program is expected to reduce equipment failures, reduce forced outage hours, and reduce maintenance costs. Brummel’s team late last year also piloted duct burner optimization at a combined cycle plant, which has helped the plant run more efficiently during periods of high demand. The team also developed a new mobile application—a “worker tracking list”—that helps improve worker productivity, increase worker safety, as well as streamline auditing by replacing the paper processes for tracking workers in and out of job tasks associated with clearance orders.