Before starting in Statkraft, I always associated the summer season with long days at the beach, eating ice cream and playing volleyball. In the power industry however, this season is filled up with inspections, maintenance and project work. It is the time of the year when the power prices and the reservoir levels are at their lowest. Meaning it is the perfect time to get some maintenance work done!
Aging power plants
The last 5 months I’ve been doing a rotation at the Swedish hydropower head office in Sollefteå. Statkraft Sweden owns and operates over 57 hydropower plants, from Kvistforsen in the north to Laholm in the south. Most of these plants were built between 1950 and 1970, meaning that they have been in operation for over a half century. With this aging also comes an increased need for maintenance and refurbishment projects to make sure they will continue to produce in the years to come.
In the next decade Statkraft plans to upgraded many of their old hydropower plants.
There are two main reasons for reinvestment;
1) Reinvestment will increase production and/or
2) the asset is in bad condition.
The first one can be evaluated through economical analysis. The second is however much more difficult to determine.
“What is the current condition of the asset?”
This question is one of the most important question in our industry, but yet, one of the most difficult to answer. This is what condition monitoring is all about; trying to determine the remaining lifetime of an asset. Back at university I took a subject called; “Asset Management And Condition Monitoring In Power Systems”. I didn’t know that it would come in handy later in my working life.
Why is it so important you might ask? My answer would be that there are large costs associated with doing this process wrong. If you are thinking the asset is in better condition than it actually is, you risk a fatal breakdown and long periods without being able to operate (production losses). If you change too early you have to use more money in the long run on equipment.
From this it is clear that it is a trade off between always being able to operate the asset and being cost efficient. To minimize this trade off you try to determine the asset’s condition though condition monitoring.
A part of condition monitoring is to track changes, this is done by technical assessments, measurement data and visual inspection. Being in the center of Swedish Hydro production, I have been invited to join several inspections the last months.
The chance to travel to nearby power plants has been great. I have learned a lot about how plants are operated, how they perform different kinds of maintenance and how dam inspections are undertaken. And I have to admit that with every visit I learn something new!