Best Practice: Sharing knowledge by way of a plant-level mini-conference

Green Country Energy, owned by J-Power USA, operated by NAES Corp

Combined-cycle plants certainly have their share of O&M challenges. Technicians are confronted almost daily with technical issues they’re facing for the first time. However, the vast majority of these are not new or unique, and most already have been resolved by others. The challenge is knowing whom to reach out to for help—including plant supervisory personnel, manufacturers, consultants, and your network of user-group colleagues.

Green Country Energy (GCE) found one way to share solutions to common technology problems was to establish a “Similar Technology Mini-Conference.” During summer 2014, the plant hosted a two-day roundtable meeting focusing specifically on nearby 7FA-powered combined cycles, most of which were operating A-10 or D-11 steam turbines. In all, 27 participants from 11 plants attended. They represented government, utility, and IPP owners.

Attendees embraced the view that sharing solutions to common technical problems creates better-informed, more successful O&M providers. They believed this type of information-sharing would accomplish the following:

      • Increase plant availability.

      • Reduce the risk of employee and contractor accidents.

      • Improve environmental performance.

      • Increase efficiency.

      • Decrease O&M expenses.

The mini-conference was structured differently from typical users’ conferences in that it devoted two days to “shirtsleeves rolled-up” roundtable technical discussions among plant managers, engineers, and O&M managers. The topics included plant safety, environmental compliance, NERC compliance, gas turbines, steam turbines, steam piping and HRSGs, breakers and transformers, cooling towers, water treatment, O&M procedures, equipment major inspection, and control systems.

Participants were fully engaged and forthcoming, which made for lively and insightful sessions. Valuable networking took place among professionals of like disciplines, as well as much note-taking on solutions to long-term issues at the participants’ plants.

Feedback from attendees indicated the mini-conference was well-received. Several remarked that it was the best conference they had ever attended, for the simple reason that all topics and discussions focused directly on equipment they operated and maintained. GCE has implemented many of the ideas brought to light and corrected many issues based on discussions with fellow O&M providers at similar plants. Another of the participating plants recently credited information presented at the mini-conference with preventing a forced outage involving approximately 800 MW of capacity.

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