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2012 -13 Seminars


AVESTAR Center for Operational Excellence of Electricity Generation Plants

Stephen E. Zitney, Ph.D.
Director, AVESTAR Center
Advanced Virtual Energy Simulation
Training and Research
Office of Research & Development
U.S. Department of Energy
National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL)

Abstract
To address industry challenges in attaining operational excellence for electricity generation plants, 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). This presentation will highlight the AVESTARTM Center simulators, facilities, and comprehensive training, education, and research programs focused on the operation and control of high-efficiency, near-zero-emission electricity generation plants.

The AVESTAR Center brings together state-of-the-art, real-time, high-fidelity dynamic simulators with full-scope operator training systems (OTSs) and 3D virtual immersive training systems (ITSs) into an integrated energy plant and control room environment. AVESTAR’s initial offering combines--for the first time--a “gasification with CO2 capture” process simulator with a “combined-cycle” power simulator together in a single OTS/ITS solution for an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plant with carbon dioxide (CO2) capture. IGCC systems are an attractive technology option for power generation, especially when capturing and storing CO2 is necessary to satisfy emission targets.

The AVESTAR training program offers a variety of 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. 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 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 power 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 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, 3D virtual plant simulation, and modern grid.

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 clean 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 power 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.

Future AVESTAR plans also include pursuing R&D on the dynamics, operation, and control of integrated electricity generation and storage systems for the modern grid era. Special emphasis will be given to combining load-following energy plants with renewable and distributed generating supplies and fast-ramping energy storage systems to provide near constant baseload power.