(389a) Accelerating Progress Toward Operational Excellence of Fossil Energy Plants with CO2 Capture

Zitney, S. E., National Energy Technology Laboratory
Liese, E. A., National Energy Technology Laboratory
Mahapatra, P., National Energy Technology Laboratory
Turton, R., West Virginia University
Bhattacharyya, D., West Virginia University

To address challenges in attaining operational excellence for fossil energy plants with carbon capture, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has launched a world-class facility for Advanced Virtual Energy Simulation Training and Research (AVESTARTM).  The AVESTAR Center brings together state-of-the-art, real-time, high-fidelity dynamic simulators with operator training systems (OTSs) and 3D virtual immersive training systems (ITSs) into an integrated fossil energy plant and control room environment.  This presentation will highlight the AVESTAR Center simulators, facilities, and comprehensive training, education, and research programs focused on the operation and control of high-efficiency, near-zero-emission fossil energy plants.

In collaboration with R&D partners and fossil energy experts, NETL’s AVESTAR team developed, tested, and deployed  a full-scope, high-fidelity, real-time dynamic simulator with OTS for an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plant with carbon dioxide (CO2) capture.  The IGCC dynamic simulator combines--for the first time--a “gasification with CO2 capture and compression” process simulator with a “combined-cycle” power simulator together in a single dynamic simulation framework.  IGCC plants are an attractive technology option for power generation, especially in a carbon-constrained environment. IGCC power plants use gasifiers to produce a synthesis gas, primarily a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which is cleaned and then fired in a combined cycle system to generate electricity using gas and steam turbines.  The advantages of gasification-based technology include environmental benefits, potential for CO2 capture, the ability to use a variety of feedstocks (e.g., coal, biomass, pet coke), and its high efficiency relative to other power generation technologies.

NETL’s AVESTAR Center also offers an immersive training system for the IGCC power plant with CO2 capture.  Using virtual reality technology, the ITS adds another dimension of realism to the real-time dynamic OTS by providing a 3D plant walk-through environment.  Wearing a stereoscopic headset or eyewear, ITS users can interact with plant equipment items (e.g., gasifier), activate transparent views (e.g., liquid level in a tank), display pop-up trends (e.g., gas turbine combustor temperature over time), and experience equipment sound effects (e.g., pump engines), malfunctions (e.g., leaks, fires), and visual training scenarios (e.g., CO2 absorber column operation).  Using the ITS, IGCC field operators can coordinate activities with control room operators. Immersed in the virtual environment, field operators can move and interact as if they were in the real plant. The environment is fully interactive with the dynamic simulation models, so actions taken by a field operator will have an impact on the process and actions performed in the control room will change the information visible to the field operator.  As a result, field and control room operators will be trained to coordinate their activities and perform collaboratively as a team.  Additional benefits include training for safety-critical tasks, rare abnormal situations, and emergency shutdowns.

The AVESTAR training program offers a variety of IGCC courses that merge classroom learning, simulator-based OTS learning in a control-room operations environment, and immersive learning in the interactive 3D virtual plant environment or ITS.  All of the courses introduce trainees to base-load plant operation, control, startups, and shutdowns.  Advanced courses require participants to become familiar with coordinated control, fuel switching, power-demand load shedding, and load following, as well as to problem solve equipment and process malfunctions. Designed to ensure work force development, training is offered for control room and plant field operators, as well as engineers and managers.  The importance of teamwork and communication is reinforced. Such comprehensive simulator-based instruction allows for realistic training without compromising worker, equipment, and environmental safety. It also better prepares operators and engineers to manage the fossil energy plant closer to economic constraints while minimizing or avoiding the impact of any potentially harmful, wasteful, or inefficient events.

With support from the NETL Regional University Alliance (RUA), the AVESTAR Center is also used to augment graduate and undergraduate engineering education in the areas of process simulation, dynamics, control, and safety.  Students and researchers gain hands-on simulator-based training experience and learn how the commercial-scale fossil energy plants respond dynamically to changes in manipulated inputs, such as coal feed flow rate and power demand.  Students also analyze how the regulatory control system impacts power plant performance and stability.  In addition, students practice start-up, shutdown, and malfunction scenarios.  The 3D virtual ITSs are used for plant familiarization, walk-through, equipment animations, and safety scenarios. 

To further leverage the AVESTAR facilities and simulators, NETL and its university partners are pursuing an innovative and collaborative R&D program.  In the area of IGCC process control, AVESTAR researchers are developing enhanced strategies for regulatory control and coordinated plant-wide control, including gasifier and gas turbine lead, as well as advanced process control using model predictive control (MPC) techniques.  Other AVESTAR R&D focus areas include high-fidelity equipment modeling using partial differential equations, dynamic reduced order modeling, optimal sensor placement, and 3D virtual plant simulation.

NETL and its partners plan to continue building the AVESTAR portfolio of dynamic simulators, immersive training systems, and advanced research capabilities to satisfy industry’s growing need for training and experience with the operation and control of fossil energy plants.  Future dynamic simulators under development include natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) and supercritical pulverized coal (SCPC) plants with post-combustion CO2 capture.  These dynamic simulators are targeted for use in establishing a Virtual Carbon Capture Center (VCCC), similar in concept to the DOE’s National Carbon Capture Center for slipstream testing.  The VCCC will enable developers of CO2 capture technologies to integrate, test, and optimize the operation of their dynamic capture models within the context of baseline fossil energy plant dynamic models.  The objective is to provide hands-on, simulator-based “learn-by-operating” test platforms to accelerate the scale-up and deployment of CO2 capture technologies.