Alarms are necessary for power plants because they help reduce the risks of facility shutdown and allow workers to be more productive, both of which can help a plant avoid financial losses. However, the earliest alarms introduced in power plants didn’t do much to achieve those goals.
The early alarms had panels with light bulbs that turned on when there was an issue to address. The configuration of these alarms was also expensive, requiring a lot of extra hardware and wiring. Additionally, these alarms demanded quality operator interfaces to help workers make informed decisions. Fortunately, over the years, the costs of installing and configuring alarms have reduced significantly, thanks to changes like Intelligent Sensor Management technology.
In a typical power plant, there are hundreds of alerts and alarms to monitor, which can overwhelm an operator and lead to fatigue and errors. Advances in technology helped build sensors and analyzers that enabled operators to set a range of alarm values. These values could be optimized to help employees make informed decisions on calculated pH, conductivity, cation conductivity, degassed cation conductivity, flow and other monitored parameters. However, the additional data added complications, so much so that the benefits turned detrimental.
To resolve the issue, power plants introduced analog sensor technology with analyzers that are built better. These sensors are more reliable and allow operators to distinguish between minor and catastrophic alarms.
The analog sensors implement advanced logic where technicians can monitor water chemistry and generate actionable feedback. The programming concept used for these analog-built alarms is called “decision tree logic,” which takes in all variables and provides steps for whether an issue needs to be mitigated or stopped altogether.
One must also consider input parameters to these analog-built alarms. If left alone, the load is on the alarm system, potentially collapsing it and preventing operators from distinguishing between false alarms and serious ones. Alarms built with analog sensors are useful. However, they need to be configured with input parameters so that technicians can make more informed decisions. This isn’t the only option for power plant alarm management though.
Alarms that are built with Intelligent Sensor Management (ISM) technology have a significant advantage over analog sensors. ISM improves alarm features with digital technology. More specifically, the measuring circuit is directly built into the sensor (analog is more wired, and the sensors are not digitized). Therefore, most of the signal vulnerability and need for special handling is removed.
Intelligent Sensor Management technology also uses less cable – only measuring a few centimeters. The cable is internal to the sensor, preventing the type of electrical noise that is rampant in analog sensors. The digitized signals between the ISM sensor and instrument help with low impedance and make alarm devices extremely robust and largely free from degradation.
For example, if a technician receives an alarm for a significant decrease in pH, alarms using ISM technology could determine whether the pH sensor is working properly in multiple ways. If an alarm is triggered for a low pH signal, operators can refer to the calculated pH value as verification that the pH is actually low. In addition, if the sensor has an ISM Adaptive Calibration Timer, it could tell the technician if the sensor has passed its scheduled calibration.
Historically, alarm management systems were focused on technology that would send too many alarm signals, overwhelming technicians. Fortunately, Intelligent Sensor Management technology helps the power industry make better and more informed decisions.
TiPS Incorporated can help power plants with its best-in-class alarm management software LogMate®. Components of the LogMate® suite, like Alarm Configuration Expert, provide effective change management to ensure the alarm system can be set to the desired expectation. The Capture module also collects data from multiple alarm systems and triages it to help operators decide whether an alarm indicator is false or reprents a potentially catastrophic condition.
Additionally, the Signal module sends out messages that operators can use to avoid unnecessary fatigue and noise alarms. To top it off, LogMate® has an optimized interface for technicians to monitor each activity of the alarm devices for maximum organization and management.
Reach out to TiPS Incorporated to learn more about LogMate® and how it can help your power plant.