Training in the simulator gave stable operation at E.ON’s cogeneration plant in Norrköping

Training in a realistic simulator, where everything looks like and reacts as in reality, has contributed to that the operators at Händelöverket, near Norrköping, could feel safe from start when performing their work tasks, at the time when a new boiler was started a few years ago.
– You feel much safer on how to act in different operating modes, explains Kent Pettersson, technicians at E.ON. The simulator provides a major difference compared with just following instructions from the supplier, the simulator shows how the control system works in actual operation.

The simulator at E.ON in Norrköping consists of a process model developed by Optimation AB, real control codes from ABB’s control system for the new boiler P15, and a number of PC’s that each contains a so-called Soft Controller and a complete Scadaserver with an operator’s interface. Since there are real control codes as well as the same visual screens as at the operator’s interface, the simulator provides a very realistic feeling of actually controlling the boiler. The threshold to reality thus becomes very low. This provides a decisive advantage, especially when you need to train new staff. But also for the most experienced, a realistic simulation gives a much shorter starting period. The operator Torbjörn Pettersson used the simulator a lot when P15 just had been brought into operation.

– Simulation was particularly advantageous for the process sections that are least automated, such as the oil control at starts. There were also a lot of changes made in the control system during the P15 project. The simulator allowed us to test everything without taking any risks with the operation. We can e.g. test different strategies for the start of the boiler.

Important to have stable operation

Leif Karlsson, project manager for the construction of P15 points out that a simulator should be in place as soon as possible.

– Then you have the opportunity to use it as a tool to "debug" the control system’s code, and make functional tests of the process design. There is much to gain. It is also useful for the training to start early. It is quite something else to train with the right images and the right control system compared with using standardized simulators, as suppliers often do.

The boiler, P15 at Händelöverket is built to burn waste from both industry and households. For the operation, this means that it should be able to operate smoothly on an uneven fuel supply. Stable operation is more important than high efficiency, since the fuel itself does not involve any cost. Efficiency is not uninteresting though, since it has a major impact on maintenance costs, environment and flue gas cleaning.

– But the key is that we keep a stable operation and avoid unnecessary stops and disruptions, says Björn Pettersson, operations coordinator at E.ON and the one who supervised the operators' training on the simulator. One aspect is that stops are wearing the boiler, and another one is that we use oil as a support fuel and we do not want use more oil than actually needed.

Health and safety benefit each other

Peter Morén, plant manager at Händelöverket, points out the simulator's significance for the health of the operators.

- It removes much of the tension that come from being in unfamiliar and critical situations. A stop can cost a lot of money, and that in turn means that the operators feel more pressure. If you can you avoid one or two breakdowns in a year, you save a lot of money, and the operators avoid feeling bad.

Training in the simulator can thus both save money and provide better health. But then you need to use it.

– It is important that someone constantly push the issue of simulator training, says Peter Morén. It is also important to follow up the training and try to authenticate the benefits you believe that it provides.

Continually updated

Since the simulator can be quickly updated with the current control system code, the simulator may be used to aid development during the boiler's entire lifetime. Jan Johansson, maintenance engineer at E.ON in Norrköping, is happily surprised by how easy it is to update the simulator.

– I feared that an update would take a week or more. Instead Optimation has thought of a way to easily insert the current control code so that it only takes a couple of hours until we are ready to run again. It increases our possibilities to have a simulator that always comply with reality.