CFE power generation facility in Mexico.
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Wireless instruments enabled one analytical team to cover 10 percent more plants, adding annual service revenues of $512,000 and improving power production per unit of fuel consumed
AUSTIN, TEXAS (October 6, 2008) – Emerson Process Management's Smart Wireless technology is being employed very successfully by the Testing Laboratory of Equipment and Materials (LAPEM) of Mexico's Federal Electrical Commission (CFE) in helping to determine thermal efficiencies at power generating units throughout Mexico. LAPEM has five analysis teams that set up temporary measurement facilities at each of 140 power plants, although they can't cover 100 percent of the plants due to the time required for each. In contrast to traditional wired measurements, one team's easy establishment of a temporary wireless network in power plants made it possible to increase its productivity and plant coverage by 10 percent. This led to an annual revenue increase of $512,000 US for LAPEM. It has also improved the revenue of the Federal Electrical Commission by pushing higher output for each plant while reducing costs.
The ease of use and the reliable performance of Emerson's Smart Wireless system resulted in a decision by the Laboratory Analysis group to equip all five of its analytical teams with wireless instrumentation. Their productivity is expected to increase by another 40 percent with faster turnaround time between services. As a result, all five teams should perform 25 more assessment services per year, producing an extra $1,375,000 US annually without adding personnel. Each of the 140 power units can now be visited and analyzed every other year.
"In the past, we could only cover about 50 plants per year," said Oscar Martinez Mejia of LAPEM. "We needed to reduce turnaround time at each plant in order to reach every plant on a two-year cycle. Emerson's Smart Wireless made it possible for the team equipped with wireless devices to cut their on-site time by one-third, enabling them to complete more services in a year's time and proving the value of wireless."
When this group of technicians and engineers arrive at a plant, they install 7 to 25 Rosemount® wireless instruments, depending on the size of the unit (350MW, 300MW, 160MW and smaller), plus a Smart Wireless Gateway to receive key flow, pressure, and temperature measurements which are fed to a thermal efficiency model. The model is used to determine the heat rate of the unit and the efficiency of such equipment as condensers, cooling towers, boilers, turbines, and auxiliary equipment as well as energy losses. This information helps the analytical team define problems a plant needs to correct to maximize production efficiency.
"It takes 15 days to install and commission wired instruments, take the readings, and tear down the setup," Martinez Mejia said. "Then, another week is needed for reporting and other activities before a team can move on to the next plant. In the future, they will be able to cover 75 plants per year, because the on-site work can be done in just 10 days using wireless devices."
Smart Wireless self-organizing networks start functioning as soon as the devices are mounted and batteries installed. Each wireless device in a network can act as a router for other nearby devices, passing messages along until they reach their destination. If there is an obstruction, transmissions are simply re-routed along the mesh network until a clear path to the Smart Wireless Gateway is found. As conditions change or new obstacles are encountered in a plant, such as temporary scaffolding, new equipment, or a parked construction trailer, these wireless networks simply reorganize and find a way.
All of this happens automatically, without any involvement by the user, providing redundant communication paths and better reliability than direct, line-of-sight communications between individual devices and their gateway. This self-organizing technology reduces the effort necessary to set up a reliable wireless network in the dense power plant infrastructure, as demonstrated so effectively by the LAPEM team.