NEWS RELEASE                                                         SEPTEMBER 2016

Custom Websites for Power Plants are the Next Step to achieve the Interconnectivity of People

The power industry has been challenged to progress at the “hurry up” pace endemic to Silicon Valley. One of the cited routes is the utilization of the interconnectivity among machines. However, this progress requires better interconnectivity of people. McIlvaine has introduced a free internet decision system for power plants based around separate websites for gas turbines/reciprocating engines and coal-fired power.

The value of this system to a power plant has been demonstrated at PacifiCorp where use of the system along with a series of five webinars has shown the way to lower cost NOx control for four coal-fired units. The decisive classification tools in the system were important but the insights from the “wise crowd” have been equally important. McIlvaine is now taking the next step in interconnectivity with a website and decision system for all the Berkshire Hathaway (BH) generation plants.

The website includes links to the decision systems but also includes an Alert just for BH people. It includes details on each generating unit with continuing updates. McIlvaine already tracks components and consumables such as the NOx reagents and suppliers for the various gas turbine units.  The coal-fired power plant NOx project will use more reagent than any of the gas turbine plants.  The combination of H2O2 and urea may be better than just urea.  If this is true for the coal-fired power plants, is there a benefit for the gas turbine plants?

Siemens, GE and Emerson are each proposing optimization systems for the coal NOx project. The gas turbine plants in the fleet are newer and the operators have insights on the latest technology.  One upgrade was priced at $8 million if the improved performance was achieved, but only $300,000 if it was not. The decision makers for the coal project need to hear from the gas turbine plant operators on this.

String wound condensate polishing filters for one of the coal-fired power plants were replaced several years ago with 20 micron filters. However, at the time there was speculation that the more expensive 10 micron filters would have been worth the extra investment.  A total lowest cost of ownership study on this selection would be useful to all the coal and combined cycle gas plants.  The bidders list for Currant Creek lists Cuno as the only approved bidder. The Cuno string wound filters were deemed too inefficient and that is why they were replaced with Pall 20 micron filters at the coal-fired power plant.  But the condensate cooling at that plant is achieved with air cooled condensers.  This results in more contamination than when wet cooling is utilized.  Also Cuno has a range of filters. So an approved bidders list should specify filter efficiency and take advantage of recent experience.   In any case, a condensate filter users group within the corporation would be desirable.

Valve and pump approved bidders’ lists for the water and steam applications for one new gas turbine plant are included in the decision system. In its valve and pump services, McIlvaine is writing about the many improvements in the product offerings.  This includes designs but also materials such as hard facings. This list should be shared among all the plants and the “wise crowd” invited to provide insights. There should be a BH power generation valve users group and also a user’s group on pumps.

There are lots of individuals in the crowd who can provide valuable input on the generation mix.  Warren Buffet has been defending the policy of not subsidizing photovoltaic solar owners in Nevada. They are paid 11 cents/kWh for their electricity when the company can buy from central solar suppliers for 5 cents/kWh.  At the heart of this dispute is the true cost of generation when transmission and other costs are included. This true cost is influenced by the fluctuations in demand and the contribution of all the other generation sources in the system. Mid-American Energy filed changes to its private generation tariff with the Iowa Utilities Board. It is now dedicated to 100 percent renewables over time.  Wind energy will be the foundation.  Relative to the solar tariff, the company said “Most private solar customers remain connected to the power grid for back-up power to use when the sun isn’t shining.”  However, they pay less for using the grid – customers who don’t have private solar end up paying the difference. We believe the filing is a step forward in the process to balance the needs of all customers and ensure that customers who install private generation pay their share of the costs for maintaining the grid. We will continue to move policies in a direction that encourage private solar and wind development.

There is a commercial tomato greenhouse at the Currant Creek plant.  It produces 22 million pound of tomatoes per year.  It uses heat and CO2 from the power generator but also is recovering a significant amount of water from the flue gas (derived from hydrogen in the fuel).  The grower operates another plant in California and is building one in Canada.  These plants each use two 4 MW gas engines to provide the electricity, heat, light and CO2.  Their energy efficiency is greater than 80 percent.  However, the produce grows up to 40 percent faster because of the CO2. Therefore, you can make a good case that the gas engines are more than 100 percent efficient and, therefore, are better than wind or solar.  This case is even stronger when the grower uses biogas from the produce waste to fuel the engines. The recovery of water from the exhaust at Currant Creek creates another ponderable. McIlvaine has a common metric to measure the harm from CO2 vs. the recovery of water in an arid area.  Ten tons of recovered water is worth one ton of CO2.  Therefore, further quantification of the water recovery is important.

Much of the area in which the Berkshire plants are located is arid and sunny.  Many experts are predicting a huge future for indoor agriculture with gas engines burning low cost natural gas or biogas. These engines will operate 24-7 unlike wind and solar. Data centers are investing in emergency engines to provide up to 6 percent of all the energy potentially consumed in the region.  They could invest in NOx control equipment and switch to standby service. Should gas engines be a bigger part of the fleet? Presently the long range plans for PacifiCorp only include a fractional percent of energy from this source.

The “wise crowd” of Berkshire people along with experts from the supplier and consulting companies will have a unique tool to help make better combustion, flow control and treatment decisions throughout the organization.  The long-range plan is to provide the custom websites for all the major utility generators throughout the world. Since these are offered free of charge the challenge is not obtaining the utility buy in but in the funding from the supplier community who will benefit from the customer interface and the mechanism to demonstrate that their products will result in the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO).

For more information on the systems, click on:

59D Gas Turbine and Reciprocating Engine Decisions

44I Power Plant Air Quality Decisions

31I Renewable Energy Update and Projects

The Berkshire Hathaway “Wise Crowd” Decisions is available separately or as part of a package.

For more information on the program contact Bob McIlvaine at 847 784 0012 ext. 112 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.