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CMMS and maintenance of geothermal power plants

CMMS and maintenance of geothermal power plants

Saturday 29 january 2022

The energy produced by geothermal power plants is considered a renewable energy source. Geothermal reservoirs are found in active volcanic regions and can use their heat to generate electricity without time limitations. By producing no emissions or harmful waste, geothermal power plants reduce environmental and economic problems.

For the record, an energy is said to be renewable when it is renewed naturally and quickly enough to be considered as inexhaustible. In addition to geothermal energy, the main renewable energies are solar energy, biomass, hydroelectricity, wind power and biofuels. Together, these different renewable energies represent 18% of the world's total energy production. The challenge of the energy transition is to reach 50%.

Nearly 20,000 years ago, geothermal energy, the heat of the earth, was used for cooking, bathing and cleaning, until it became a source of energy in the 20th century thanks to geothermal power plants. This innovative method allowed Piero Ginori Conti, an Italian scientist, to open the first geothermal power plant in 1911. This method has since become an important component of renewable energy production solutions. If, like him, you are one of the geothermal energy producers and you wish to develop your company, we will see the importance of a maintenance management. But how can integrating a CMMS tool contribute to the development of geothermal energy?

The geothermal power plant sector

A geothermal power plant is an installation that produces electricity by using thermal energy from underground rocks. This source of energy can be located anywhere in the world, even in the coldest countries, provided that there is volcanic activity and high underground temperatures. Geothermal plants have no fuel costs and are very reliable in terms of electricity production. In addition, unlike other renewable sources, geothermal plants operate year-round without interruption.

Specifically, a geothermal power plant works on the principle of transforming water, either contained in groundwater or artificially injected, into steam. This evaporation is used to drive a turbine and an alternator for the production of electricity. This is mainly referred to as hot water reservoir or fractured rock geothermal energy. The biggest advantage of geothermal power plants is that most of them use wells that have extremely low operating costs, as they only need to be repaired every 10 or even 20 years.

The geothermal power sector accounts for about 0.1% of the world's total energy production, with an installed capacity of more than 14 GW by 2021. This production is expected to increase with the growing demand for renewable sources and awareness of its environmental benefits. Among the main countries with high capacity are the United States, the Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico, New Zealand and Italy. In Iceland, geothermal energy is the main source of energy, providing more than 90% of heating and 27% of electricity.

The practice of geothermal energy seems to be one of the healthiest solutions, but can still have some flaws. For more production, the forced infiltration of water and various products into the rock can cause micro-seismic phenomena and soil pollution. In addition, the power plants are subject to difficult conditions that can weaken the equipment. To avoid any disaster, and in particular the escape of gases stored in the soil, it is advisable to regularly manage the maintenance of its assets.

Maintenance of geothermal power plants

In the geothermal industry, maintenance is an essential point for the sustainability of your company. To do this, you have a team of experts composed of geologists, engineers, technologists, chemists and people specialized in different maintenance roles such as mechanical or electrical systems. These professionals will have to do risk monitoring to avoid any internal or external accidents. Your assets must not have any failures and environmental hazards, such as earthquakes and floods, must be able to be detected in time.

Harsh conditions due to terrain instability, temperature extremes, brine chemistry, non-condensable gases and sediments can cause corrosion on all your equipment. Without regular cleaning and monitoring, your facilities will underperform and you risk a premature shutdown of your power generation company. A well-maintained power plant will operate for at least 60 years, and it will take a maximum of 30 years to achieve a return on investment.

In order to achieve this, your experts will need to perform a scale and corrosion control, cleaning and retrofitting of equipment (water pumps, tanks, turbines, alternators, condensers, separators), as well as H2S removal in the cooling water. In addition to this equipment, it is also necessary to ensure the proper functioning and cleaning of electrical cabinets and ventilation systems.

If done properly, this maintenance will ensure the durability of your assets and the quality of production, while keeping your employees safe. To help you guide your teams in their tasks, it is worth investing in a CMMS system. It will help you plan the necessary controls in real time, taking into account environmental and material data. But what is a CMMS tool and how can it help in the maintenance of your geothermal plant?

The contribution of CMMS for geothermal energy

As a reminder, a CMMS tool, or computer-assisted maintenance management, is a computer application that helps technicians in the field who are involved in preventive or corrective maintenance and managers to plan, supervise and control the maintenance and upkeep operations of your equipment. These applications allow plants to improve their maintenance processes by optimizing resource use and reducing their annual production costs. CMMS tools can also help identify and resolve problems quickly, allowing companies to improve production quality. In the geothermal industry, it is important that every user and department's data is recorded in this maintenance system.

The use of a CMMS system on a geothermal plant was first introduced by the New Zealand Geothermal Association on its Ngawha geothermal plant in 1994. In addition to maintenance management, the system also collects performance data from sensors located throughout the steam cycle. This information is used to facilitate and expedite operational decisions related to optimizing the company's production and providing additional benefits such as reduced emissions and fuel consumption.

Conclusion

Today, the use of maintenance software is becoming a priority and integrating a CMMS tool tailored to geothermal and your assets into your organization is a must. Having a preventive, corrective and flexible control of this unstable environment is essential. This way, you can more easily avoid any emergency situation and improve your productivity and profitability.

With the success of your geothermal plant, you contribute to the reduction of our global carbon footprint while producing energy. The more effective your maintenance, the more control you will have over your facility and the more you will be able to grow your business. You'll be able to meet your missions while helping to keep our planet happy.

To discover how CMMS is an essential ally of renewable energies, we invite you to read the articles:

 

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