NEWS RELEASE                                                                  February 2017

Role of Power Plant Consulting Firms in IIoT and Remote O&M

Power plant engineering and consulting firms have both a big potential IIoT opportunity but also the threat of a radically different environment which would reduce revenues.

The success or failure may depend on the IIoW contribution.  IIoW is the Industrial Internet of Wisdom which will likely empower IIoT. But it is a cycle.  The invaluable information generated by the IIoT systems should lead to new procedures and new technologies chronicled by IIoW which will lead to new IIoT generated insights and then to even newer and better technologies.

Positive Aspects of IIoT & Remote O&M empowered by IIoW for consulting companies:

  • Substantial revenues directly associated with IIoT and Remote O&M
  • Promotional value of niche expertise leading to larger contracts
  • Ability for U.S. or European based firms to leverage skills around the world

Negative Aspects of IIoT and Remote O&M empowered by IIoT for consulting companies: 

  • IIoT will generate more potential knowledge than can be handled by the traditional consulting company
  • There will need to be hundreds of thousands of specialized niche experts who provide much of the insight
  • Consulting firms tend to employ only people who generate billable hours and if necessary will hire experts for modest input
  • In an IIoW empowered IIoT world the consultant may lose his knowledge edge to new kinds of organizations who most efficiently utilize the niche experts

If you are going to improve operations at a power plant you can hire a consulting engineering firm to analyze the existing operations and recommend changes.  They can then create a set of specifications and evaluate bids. The firm can then oversee the installation and can provide follow on services.

Many of the world’s largest power plant consulting firms are U.S. based.  They include broad based consultants such as AECOM, Bechtel, Black & Veatch, Burns & McDonnell, Kiewit and Sargent & Lundy.  They also include focused firms such as, MPR and Trinity Consultants. A number of European utilities have formed consulting groups. Laborelec. Steag and Uniper are examples.

Design firms often compete with EPC contractors. In Asia, the typical approach is to invite turnkey bids from EPC firms.  In the U.S., the most common approach is creation of specifications for a project by an A/E firm who then overseas bids from the EPC firms or from sub-system bidders.

Most of the large firms have operations and maintenance services. Many have embraced IIoT and some have acquired software companies to enable them to compete with large management consulting firms such as Accenture and Genpact.

The large consulting companies are an important source of the niche expertise needed to advance the power industry.  A utility would look to the consultant to evaluate technology options and create bid specifications based on knowledge assumed to be superior to that available within the utility and unavailable in an unbiased way from the technology suppliers.

Specific Examples

Kiewit: has substantial consulting activities to supplement its engineering and construction businesses.  McIlvaine has conducted webinars with Kiewit air and water experts.  There are links to some of these presentations in the promotional material for the Gas Turbine IIoT Webinar on the McIlvaine Home Page.  Here is an example of how Kiewit niche expertise would work. 

Brad Buecher was a chemist at a power plant before joining Kiewit.  He is a world expert on water chemistry for power plant steam cycles.  Here is a scenario as to how his services could be utilized:

  • MHPS has a remote monitoring center in the Philippines and oversees gas turbine operations at plants in Asia.  Let’s assume that they expand from just monitoring rotating parts to the full balance of plant monitoring.
  • Hach monitors water quality parameters.
  • Nalco monitors water treatment chemical use.
  • Flowserve monitors valve and pump conditions
  • All this data flows through the MHPS center and is available to Brad in the U.S. He then uses his knowledge of flow accelerated corrosion and water chemistry to provide periodic advice as part of a yearly contract.  He is also available in an emergency.

Kiewit has electrical, instrumentation and telecommunication activities in many industries e.g. common platform for artificial lift pumps at the Peregrino oil field.  The Kiewit subsidiary INEIGHT has IIoT services focused on power plant constructors but could expand into services for the power plants themselves.

AECOM:  McIlvaine has beenconducting webinars for BHE on NOx removal.  AECOM has been supporting BHE with analysis of options and has suggested using technology successfully employed in the refining industry for NOx oxidation ahead of the scrubber.  A novel hybrid reductant may also be employed for front end SNCR.  If these combinations are successful, the AECOM project manager has the potential to take this knowledge to the many plants in Asia who are struggling with new NOx limits.

AECOM has complete IIoT programs for leak detection including visibility across the operating asset fleet, automatic alerts, and IT integration with security safety, and environmental regulations.

MPR:  has CFD analyses which will help plants removing SO2 with direct sorbent injection.  The program is designed to make trouble shooting much more cost effective.  MPR has developed expertise in wind turbine drive train technology and could be providing remote services to wind power generators around the world.

Black & Veatch:  tells clients that optimization is the next step after digitization and involves human action with all that data.  Further B&V says that asset management is not about managing assets but creating value.

Trinity Consultants:  has unique expertise in analyzing the local and state environmental regulations and permitting which apply to a given power plant. 

McIlvaine has set up a beta IIoT site including all the plants operated by BHE. 4S01 Berkshire Hathaway Energy Supplier and Utility Connect

There are a number of relevant air and water permits and rulings which are applicable to each plant.  Enough of these were posted in the BHE site to determine that:

  • A continuous posting of permits, rulings, case histories, and component information on each plant could be cost effective.
  • The present practice where power plants use the local consultant to analyze the local situation and then a variety of other consultants to aggregate and utilize the data leaves much to be desired.
  • A system wide approach to information gathering for each plant will facilitate IIoW empowered IIoT.
  • Trinity Consultants would be in a position to aggregate and interpret the regulatory data for each U.S. power plant.

Laborelec (ENGIE) is leveraging the knowledge of the Belgian electricity industry to offer both laboratory services and consulting. It is providing condition monitoring for turbines in the Middle East.  It provided water chemistry solutions for an Asian power plant with problems.  It analyzed air inlet filter operations at 40 U.S. plants for one operator.  This group is showing the niche expertise to take this from the one-on-one level to the one on industry level.

The consultant role in IIoT and Remote O&M as well as IIoW empowerment is evolving. You can track this evolution in N031 Industrial IOT and Remote O&M