Preventative Maintenance for Maximum Performance

By Tim Portz | January 07, 2013

This month’s issue of Biomass Magazine focuses its editorial lens on a critical component of plant operations––maintenance—and outlines how efficient and well-considered maintenance programs are currently being carried out across the industry. Anna Simet’s feature, “Planned Outage Protocol” takes readers on a stepwise journey through the planned outages that occur at biomass and waste-to-energy facilities across this country. The article is rich in detail and quotes from industry maintenance chiefs, including Frank Miller, vice president of maintenance technology for Covanta Energy, and Art Posey, senior manager of maintenance for Wheelabrator Inc.

Simet’s feature establishes that a majority of facilities experience one major and one minor planned outage each year. A quick calculation then suggests that in the biomass sector alone in any given week in this country, five to seven facilities, on average, are offline and vital maintenance is being performed. The quality of the plan and the expertise of the professionals performing the work determines how quickly the plant comes back online, to efficiently generate not only power, but also revenue. This reality is underscored in this month’s Q&A with George Wackerhagen of industry operations and maintenance provider NAES Corp., who notes that “with an expert job in the outage, we expect to attain improvements in efficiency and reliability.”

In the same scope, Kolby Hoagland, map and data manager at BBI International, posted a graphic on his Nov. 29 blog at www.biomass that illustrates the difference between a biomass power plant’s nameplate capacity and its capacity factor, which is the amount of electricity that a power plant actually produces and what it could potentially produce if the plant were run at capacity over an entire year. Hoagland notes that a number of factors contribute to the achieved capacity factor output of each facility, including planned outages to perform plant maintenance.

Hoagland's blog paints a picture of a broad range of capacity factors achieved across the industry, and while he notes that factors beyond maintenance do contribute, it is clear from the professionals quoted in this month’s issue that industry leading producers heavily invest in robust, well-considered and expertly executed maintenance plans, in a perpetual effort to keep their facilities online and at maximum output.