Resilience: Powering through challenging times

13:00 | 29/10/2020 Science - Technology

(VEN) - COVID-19 has taught many lessons, including the essential role of reliable electricity, particularly in times of crisis. Whether it’s keeping hospital lights and equipment running, or allowing people to stay connected via internet and social media, electricity has been critical during the pandemic.

GE Gas Power recently convened a panel discussion featuring its global and Asia experts to discuss innovative remote strategies and technologies, and shared examples of how they have supported customers, communities and economies during this period.

“As COVID-19 struck our region, we had to react quickly and rapidly,” explained Ramesh Singaram, CEO and President for Asia at GE Gas Power."

Immediately, power plant operators were looking to understand which outages could be postponed until later in the year, given the months-long lockdowns. Next, how to prioritize the outages scheduled for the second half of 2020 that could be moved into 2021. They also needed to know that ongoing outages and power plant commissioning projects would continue, and that any unplanned repair work would be completed effectively and efficiently.

At the heart of GE’s response was a focus on staying closely engaged with customers. This included consulting on timelines and approaches, and offering advisory informed by the millions of hours of global gas turbine operating experience, and data and onsite inspections made possible by GE’s advanced remote engineering technologies.

Outages, repairs and commissioning continued

As a result, GE Gas Power supported a large number of outages, repairs and plant commissionings over the past six months. Globally, between March and August, GE oversaw the launch of commercial operations of 14 projects, equivalent to about 3,900 megawatts (MW), and so far this year, started 259 major outages, about 80% of the original Jan-June 2020 plan.

In the Asia region, service teams conducted 177 customer events, including 48 major outages, and deployed more than 1,300 people to sites during the first half of 2020. Since April, GE has conducted six remote customer support sessions in Asia and 15 remote borescope inspections using GE’s digital tool (Mentor Visual IQ).

For example, GE is using tools such as HelpLightning, an interactive merged reality platform, to give customers real-time technical support when and where they need it. GE also has been using remote borescopes for inspecting the inside of gas turbines, while GE’s gas turbine remote monitoring and diagnostics teams are giving customers insights on the performance of their existing fleets. These technologies not only help assess the timing of outages but are also being used to perform outages and repairs. In the spring, amidst the pandemic lockdowns and travel restrictions, GE used HelpLightning in more than 1,000 cases across Asia to support outage tasks, including a 9FB bucket installation in China and a similar installation in Taiwan.

In another instance, the GE team conducted a routine onsite inspection in Malaysia using, HelpLightning connecting onsite engineers and remote technical experts for performance testing. Inlet guide vane (IGV) checks revealed vanes in one unit were misaligned, an error that if left unchecked could have caused a forced outage.

Remote engineering technologies also have helped keep plant commissioning moving forward. In South Korea, GE was unable to bring in the experts originally planned for the installation process, but by using HelpLightning the local team was able to tap top global expertise to get the job done.

Lean support for supply chain effectiveness

While remote engineering technologies have played a major role in bringing expertise to job sites, GE has used a different methodology to ensure the supply chain is delivering parts and equipment to customer sites. This has been enabled by “lean action workouts,” which are helping to drive continuous improvements across operations, resulting in shorter turnaround times, enhanced quality, and greater efficiencies.

Initiated long before the pandemic, the ongoing series of lean workouts at GE sites and facilities in Asia have continued to deliver enhancements in areas such as spare parts management during outages and installations, and the movement of parts and equipment at repair centers.

The impact of climate change

In addition to the COVID-19 crisis, power plant operators and developers also recognize that climate change and the shift toward renewables will impact their operations in the long run. “With GE technologies powering approximately one-third of the region’s 900 gigawatts of generating capacity,” said Ramesh, “we well understand the dynamics of this shift.”

This transition to a decarbonized future suggests a significant role for gas power. As wind and solar capacity continue to climb, most immediately in markets such as Australia, the need for reliable dispatchable electricity will only grow. It’s well established that gas power, with its relatively low CO2 emissions and low fuel cost, is an effective technology for grid firming. Also driving the role for gas in Asia is the need to add nearly 400 GW of generating capacity over the next decade. This is happening in an environment where the future of nuclear power in countries such as Japan is uncertain, and countries such as Taiwan and South Korea are retiring nuclear and coal-fired plants. Gas demand is further compounded by government efforts to bring electricity to the nearly 50 million in ASEAN without electricity access.

Times of crisis are always difficult, and yet, the challenges they present create opportunities to explore new solutions. GE brought ingenuity and new ways of using emerging technologies to help customers keep plant construction on track, address repairs as needed, and ensure outages continued. This supported the reliable delivery of electricity across Asia, so crucial to fueling its continued economic expansion, and its momentum toward a future powered by cleaner, dependable and cost-effective technologies.