From aging plants and an aging workforce to the push for sustainability, the power generation industry today faces many challenges. As we look to the future, these challenges will only grow, and the power companies that act now to address them will be the ones best positioned to succeed.
To meet these challenges in a timely and cost-effective manner will require collaboration among the power companies and their partners and suppliers. As they say, “no business is an island.”
Here’s how valve suppliers can help the power industry meet the biggest challenges of today and tomorrow.
Valve sizing and selection
Valves used in power plants are under growing strain. As Rich Ford wrote in a 2014 Valve World article, “Increasingly volatile cyclic conditions in modern power plants are quickly intensifying both the demands and the stress being placed upon process equipment, especially when it comes to valves.”
Because of this stress, and also because of how many valves are used in power plants, it’s critical to ensure you choose the right valve for every application. That requires taking into consideration not just the size and materials of construction, but also the temperature and pressure ratings, type of seat (metal- vs. soft-seated), and various design characteristics. Assessing these factors and identifying the best solution requires a deep knowledge of valves and their applications, which only an experienced valve supplier can provide.
Valve maintenance and repair
The average power plant in the United States is more than 40 years old. As facilities age, proper maintenance and repair become even more important to ensure valves and other equipment achieve optimal performance.
This isn’t just a good idea. It’s essential for profitability. Just in the past few years, there have been several stories of poorly maintained valves at nuclear power plants leading to unplanned shutdowns. By one estimate, a 4-day unplanned shutdown can cost a power plant an average of $2.6 million.
Regular maintenance is one of the key ways to extend the life of your valves. It also saves you from costly unplanned downtime.
Power plants aren’t the only thing that’s aging. The workforce is too. According to 2017 BLS data, about one-quarter of power industry employees are 55 or older, which means they will likely retire in the next 10 years. At the same time, the traditional energy sector is having difficulty attracting top young talent.
That’s why many power generation companies are investing in automation technologies, such as digital valve positioners.
A digital positioner automatically monitors the valve and adjusts the signal to the actuator as necessary to ensure the valve achieves the correct position. It also collects data from the valve and sends it back to a centralized database, where the data can be analyzed for any signs of trouble. This reduces costs by allowing a single operator to monitor the performance of all of the valves in a facility, and also by identifying potential problems early so they can be fixed before they cause a shutdown.
A quick look at the day’s business headlines reveals the ever-shifting landscape of regulatory compliance. Even in the current climate of deregulation, things are changing all of the time. In addition, organizations like the ASME and ASTM frequently issue new standards.
It’s unrealistic for your plant or operations managers to keep up on all of these changes without some help. This is an area where partners like your valve supplier can show their worth by helping you navigate new regulatory developments and standards to ensure you’re in compliance.
Finally, although having trusted suppliers is important, your employees still need to be able to operate your equipment and provide the first line of defense when things go wrong. That requires training.
At Allied Valve, we consider ourselves to be in the service business. That’s why we provide training — in the form of workshops, Lunch and Learn programs, and more — to ensure that your on-site operators are both confident and competent working with the equipment we sell.
Do you need help tackling the challenges facing your power business? Contact us to learn more about what we can do for you.