Digital Industrial World: Beyond Bits for Atoms

Digital Industrial World: Beyond Bits for Atoms
November 04, 2015 at 04:11pm

By Ganesh Bell, Chief Digital Officer & General Manager for Software & Analytics at GE Power & Water

As countries in the region consider how they will address sustained high levels of electricity demand growth, let’s take a moment to recognize how digital is playing a necessary and unprecedented role. Gone are the days of analog systems trading atoms for bits and becoming digital. Now companies are now creating new value and revenue from digital assets, including data from software-defined machines and operations. The power industry is no exception.

First, some context… Last year, the Middle East and North Africa had the worlds’ highest rate of energy consumption growth in the world, and this strong pace is set to continue for years as population and economic growth drives demand. Some countries such as Algeria and the Gulf states are looking to stay ahead of this demand growth; others, such as Egypt, Iraq and Pakistan are looking to close the gap between supply and demand.

Building new power plants is essential to addressing this challenge, but there is more that can be done.

Companies who pivoted from from analog to digital delivered wide-ranging benefits that are incredibly obvious to us today. Now is the time to shift those digital assets into ones that deliver new values, new outcomes, new revenue streams to the entire enterprise.

This kind of change also is happening in the industrial world. And one of the most exciting areas is in the power sector. GE recently launched the Digital Power Plant, a dynamic transformation that is equally applicable to existing, as well as new power plants.

Digital Power Plants work by integrating big data, software and analytics, physical assets and control systems to increase the capability of power plants and fleets. GE has quantified this and found that the Digital Power Plant has the potential to deliver up to US$50 million in additional value over the life of an existing gas-fueled power plant. A new combined-cycle gas power plant powered by GE’s HA Gas Turbines and using a digital power plant setup could see US$230 million in incremental value.

Operators in this region have already begun to implement Digital Power Plant solutions. At a Sapphire Electric Company power plant in Pakistan, GE is implementing a series of upgrades that enable the automation of processes and provide for data-driven insights that will improve performance, reliability and availability. These software solution runs on GE’s Predix Cloud, the world’s first and only cloud-based operating system built exclusively for industry.

In Kuwait, the 2,000 megawatt Sabiya Combined-Cycle Power Plant is using the Proficy SmartSignal predictive analytics software for improved equipment reliability, asset availability, efficiency and productivity. Dubai Aluminium (DUBAL) is using LifeMax Advantage and Advanced Gas Path solutions at its smelter’s power plants also to improve efficiency, lower operating costs, reduce downtime and extend the life of its GE gas turbines.

With GE’s partnership, New Jersey power producer PSEG is using software and analytics to help generate more competitive power in its market by turning data into insights and actions that bring improved reliability, reduced production costs, optimized asset capabilities, optimized offers, and scheduling.

GE isn’t stopping at base load power plants. LNG, Smelting and other energy intensive industries are immensely important to the economic growth of the region. For example, RasGas, one of the world’s largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) producers, contributes up to 45% of the GDP of the State of Qatar yearly. This week they are marking the first global deployment of Asset Performance Management for the LNG, industry, which is delivering substantial productivity and profitability gains through greater asset reliability and operational efficiency. The solution contributes to enhanced and reliable LNG production, performance optimizations as well as performance benchmarking.

Power plant operators are part of a new breed of digital-industrial companies that are leveraging these new Industrial Internet capabilities. As described in a GE white paper that I co-authored, benefits not only include using analytics to reduce costs and maximize economic output, as noted above, but also to reduce emissions; balance the fuel mix through software and analytics, accelerate the adoption of natural gas, integrate intermittent renewables, and optimize plant operation.

We’ve seen for years what transforming atoms into bits as done for global business. Now imagine if every electron produced and consumed had a byte of data. We’re about to see the transformative impact of digital in the world of power generation.

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