Mikhail Lifshits’ column on Rambler News Service
Each senior leader deems its generation company is fully dependent on his/her decisions. Is this really so? Unfortunately, power sector belongs to those industries where actions of line personnel may take a toll on corporate operations. Just like the BoD chair of Germanwings could not have influenced the latent depression of the pilot in charge of A320 that crashed in the Alps, CEOs of power companies cannot shut down a turbine with abnormal cycles — no corporate practices can actually do.
Fortunately, today’s technologies may ensure quality control in areas that were previously doomed. In the coming future, digitization will help to see a real picture online. Moreover, we’ll be able to predict it.
Meanwhile, system reliability is provided by stringent standards and regulations. As well as by scheduled repairs. However, this tool becomes faulty: with shrunk revenues, companies often pay for urgent (emergency) repair at the expense of scheduled servicing. This is similar to discharging mortgage debts by obtaining a 700% micro loan.
Small breakdowns become a tool of income redistribution. If money is not given for something, it just needs to break down — and money will come.
We see a distinct link: a declined economy of a power station/company in general results in the overall savings, including repair programs, almost unavoidably causing breakdowns. This is no mere assumption – here are the statistical data provided by the RF Ministry of Energy: the annual repair plans for turbines and boilers were implemented by 88.5% last year. The key reason is cash flow redistribution due to unscheduled (emergency) repair of other equipment.
Lack of funding multiplied by worsened workforce competences may cause emergencies. In Russia, about 4,500 emergencies of variable severity occur in the power system. Among them, about 60% are breakdowns of core equipment.
Reftinskaya GRES is the ‘youngest’ turbine commissioned in 1980, it is 36 years old; the first turbine of the station is 10 years older. Were there any renovations or upgrade of its core equipment? Hardly. Simple logic tells us that a 46-year-old turbine is at serious risk. However, we got off light this time: the previous accident in 2006 was far more severe. That fire made a section of the station idle for almost two years, over RUB2bn was spent on the recovery.
It is possible to deal with obsolete core process power equipment — we just need to upgrade it. The Russian turbine manufacturers — the Ural Turbine Works and Power Machines – have made relevant proposals long ago. The power sector needs a governmental program, similar to the finishing CSA program, only with far less costs.
Look at the figures: a new power unit costs about $2,000 per 1 kW: it includes a foundation, walls and related infrastructure. Speaking about upgrade, we avoid this spending as we use the existing station reducing costs down to $500-$600 per 1 kW. Furthermore, we increase fuel efficiency, level of automation and, if required, capacity. Actually, this is new, enhanced, cleaner equipment.
Over the last years, we managed to renovate just 14 power units; still there are over 800 turbines of the Ural Turbine Works. Where is the demand? We are waiting for it, and I’m sure that we’ll succeed soon. Deterioration and number of accidents are growing. We’ll have to do it anyway. And the only thing here worth saying is the later they begin, the more they will pay.
Source: Rambler News Service