Operations Optimization of Industrial Power Plants (IPP) is an often ignored area. One reason for this complacency is that IPPs are usually cost centers in production plants and the cost of energy production is prorated amongst the various production units, so it suffers what is at times referred to as “the tragedy of the commons”. Another reason for this complacency is that IPP structure is significantly different than other production units and traditional optimization techniques do not readily apply to IPP operations optimization.
This paper will discuss various aspects of IPP optimization; the solution will be illustrated with a recently completed project for a US refinery.
Unlike most refineries, this refinery has an option to buy steam from a neighboring process facility. Depending on the economic environment, imported steam could be cheaper, nonetheless, it is somewhat less reliable, which adds an element of uncertainty. When steam import is cheaper, purely from economic considerations, it would be desirable to increase steam purchase; however, purely from reliability considerations, it would be desirable to decrease steam purchase. “How much steam to purchase?” is therefore an important yet a difficult decision that the Refinery faces on a daily basis. The implemented solution, is an on-line optimizer that determines the optimum amount of steam the refinery should purchase that would maximize the economic benefit without any additional risk. In addition, the implemented solution also determines the optimum allocation of steam generators and adjustments to steam balance in the boiler house; furthermore, it also suggests changes to equipment line up in an opportunistic way. The project was completed last year and has been in continuous operation since then.
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