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Condition Based Maintenance is Predictive, Smart Maintenance!

Posted By: Siraj Taj, Principal ST Power Services

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Condition based maintenance gives you more control over your power plant assets, and keeps you available to the market.

Recent studies suggest the power industry collects less than 2% of potential data generated by a typical power plant. Data-driven predictive maintenance (condition based maintenance) is in stark contrast to the preventative maintenance model, because the latter assumes a failure pattern that increases with equipment age and use. This is true for about 20% of assets while the remaining 80% display a random failure pattern.


So, why would you apply a conventional and costly method designed for preventive maintenance strategy? It’s time to implement a predictive maintenance strategy to smartly maintain your power generating asset, lower maintenance costs, and increase asset performance.  Condition Based Maintenance (CBM) allows you to do just that!


The purpose of CBM is to collect and analyze total plant operation data, i.e. OH, EOH, starts, trips, power output, heat rate, fuel distribution, water consumption, pressures, temperatures, and so on.  In collecting and analyzing this wealth of data owners can determine the likelihood of a component failure, make plans to replace or repair it, and avoid a costly unplanned outage.


Along with determining component failure rate due to operational ware and tare, a CBM approach is a key element of a Major Maintenance Program (MMP). It enables owners to make intelligent and pragmatic decisions about when to schedule a major overhaul and which Hot Gas Path Parts (HGPP), i.e. blades, vanes, burners, seals, and so on to replace with either new or refurbished parts and which parts to use as-is for another cycle.


The results of analyzed data tell a story about the health of the asset and leads to a technical and commercial decision. The decision to repair, replace, or use as-is, is at the discretion of OEM with no financial benefits to plant owners because major overhauls are scheduled based on OEM recommendations. CBM strategy enables plant owners to make such decisions, increase asset availability, reduce or eliminate non-essential maintenance costs, and take full control of its cash flow.


In other words, the Owner shall only spend money when it makes sense and not based on the predefined recommendations of an OEM whose primary objective is to improve its commercial position with the least amount of effort I.E. “just replace it, that works better for us.”


Leveraging condition based maintenance creates smart owners, with deep insights into the performance of their machines, poised to capitalize on the next boon, not be bankrupted by it.


Peace of mind comes with a price tag.

In the power industry, data analysis means assuming liability. If an OEM puts forth a recommendation based on their analysis, they will most certainly not leave themselves open to risk. So, if you want your plant assets to be covered, you’ll wind up paying through the nose.


The upside of good data is that it can lead to deferred costs and better short term cash flow.


Unplanned downtime is ludicrously expensive. People need to be mobilized in a hurry, (which always comes at a premium) and then there are the costs associated with actually fixing the problem, followed by any losses your business may suffer in the market as result of not producing the power your plant was committed to producing.


Imagine the impact an unplanned outage could have had on your plant during the heatwave that hit New England on Labor Day this year with real-time power prices topping $2,600.00 per MWh? Certain death.

CBM based MMP are extremely relevant to current energy market because it can comfortably deliver life-cycle cost savings of 35% or more along with predictable maintenance costs, and minimized risk of extended downtime.


Initial investment.

ST Power Services knows how to assess the viability of CBM strategy for an existing Combined Cycle Power Plant. Generally speaking, CBM strategy can be implemented during a major overhaul and paid for over the lifetime of the LTSA, which is good for cash flow.


Maintenance planning can also be revised over the lifecycle of the LTSA, allowing owners to reap the benefits of new functionality, minimize risk of failure, and improve transparency in the performance of the asset through intelligent planning.


CBM implementation depends on the plant operating model, existing technology, and historical O&M practice. An assessment would need to be conducted on the existing system to make any upgrade recommendations. The great news is that most power plant control systems come equipped with predictive, condition based maintenance functionality with predictable maintenance capabilities. So, it would be relatively cost-effective to reconfigure the plant control system to implement a CBM strategy.

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