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18 energy plants under one reporting system
In 2019, Oulun Seudun Sähkö Oy deployed KPA Unicon’s PlantSys Reporting system. All of its connectable plants were linked to the system. For KPA Unicon, the delivery of the system was one of the largest in the history of the PlantSys service platform.
“In addition to Reporting, we also use the PlantSys platform to manage the plant’s maintenance and logbook. Those features were introduced at the same time, but reporting is the most important for us in our daily work,” says Joni Pekkala, District Heating Production Manager at Oulun Seudun Sähkö.
The oldest Oulu Seudun Sähkö plants connected to PlantSys Reporting are from the early 1990s, and the newest ones were completed in 2014–2015.
“A solar collector heating system completed in 2018 is also connected to PlantSys Reporting. The other connected units are oil-fired boilers, solid fuel plants, and pellet boilers. In fact, no production plants were left out.”
The largest of the plants is 6 megawatts, and the smallest is 300 kilowatts. The plants generate heat for the networks located in the municipalities around Oulu. There are three networks in the Liminka area and two in Muhos. Lumijoki, Päivärinne area, and Tyrnävä each have their own district heating network. The largest network can be found in Kempele.
Production monitoring anytime, anywhere
KPA Unicon and Oulun Seudun Sähkö already had an existing operation and maintenance (O&M) agreement. In practice, KPA Unicon takes care of the day-to-day operation and maintenance of the plants, employing four plant managers and an operations manager. From the customer’s point of view, the co-operation is functional, but according to Pekkala, an easy system for monitoring the production was needed.
“In the past, we had the challenge of getting real-time plant production data. We received information about individual facilities through a separate device or connection. With this system, I have access to the data from any device, and the data is easy to find. I can monitor that the plants are run as intended,” he states.
He continues on to say that the “monitoring is related to the operating economy of the facilities. For us, the actual load of the plant, the flue gas temperature, and the oxygen level of the flue gas are essential – these numbers tell us how efficiently the boilers are run. Concerning the district heating networks, we closely monitor the temperature of the supply and return water. If necessary, the system also provides easy access to various reports and has also helped to identify some maintenance needs when we have detected a failure in production based on values.”
The reporting service displays all key information in hourly averages. In addition, the system depicts measuring data by the minute. From the smallest plants in the Oulun Seudun Sähkö, data is available for only a few variables, but the point of the system is that it suits plants of all sizes.
“In this case, compared to a new facility, the amount of data available is relatively small due to the age of the plants. But this is a good example of how scalable PlantSys Reporting is: on the one hand, it can be applied to an old plant that is very small and has, for example, 15 types of measurements, and on the other hand, the system is also very suitable for a plant with 7,500 types of measurements,” explains Joni Räsänen, Digital Director, KPA Unicon.
Suitable for both plants of different ages and different suppliers
The implementation of PlantSys Reporting required some changes to the plant automation made by Oulun Seudun Sähkö. The rest was managed by KPA Unicon.
“Some changes had to be made to the programs, as our plants have several different automation systems and interfaces. Changes were needed to get certain registers read. The connections to PlantSys Reporting were in large part made directly from the plant’s programs, and the system takes certain parameters from there,” says Pekkala.
As this was a large-scale delivery involving facilities from different eras and manufactured by different suppliers, the project first underwent an initial inventory to determine the final costs.
“Usually that’s not needed, but in this case, we went through all the plants one by one. Traditionally, we supply all the necessary hardware and configuration, connect the facilities to the system, and the system is then ready to be operated. In this project, we also connected to a system outside the customer, as all data does not come directly from the plants,” states Räsänen.
Cyber security at the heart of development
“From the very beginning, PlantSys has been designed to be secure. The system consists of separate isolated layers that don’t communicate with each other.”
For the system, security-enhanced hardware is installed in the plant and connected to the plant’s own automation system via a firewall-protected, closed VPN connection. Enhancement refers to measures that minimize information-system vulnerabilities that could be used by various malware as attack channels. As vulnerabilities decrease, system manageability and security improve.
“All data collection, synchronization, transmission and reporting are separate functions in the system and are not interconnected. Browser-based monitoring does not allow access to the facility; that is, the reporting service and the plant automation systems are not directly connected to each other.”
According to Räsänen, there exists a general belief that such systems which digitalize energy production require big investments. However, the truth is otherwise.
“After all, this is pretty affordable. The price is listed in our online store and is about 500 euros per month. The price includes everything: equipment, commissioning, and the training of the operating personnel.”
PlantSys Reporting is already available in dozens of locations. The system is constantly being developed and the customer always receives the latest version as well as the new basic features that come with the versions.
“Currently, different artificial intelligence features are under development. These include an artificial intelligence-based status of the plant, real-time and predictive condition monitoring, and operational proposals. A plant simulation model based on the plant’s digital twin is also coming. We are currently looking for pilot customers for the project,” Räsänen adds.
For more information, please contact
Joni Räsänen, firstname.lastname@example.org , tel:+358407792458
Oulun Seudun Sähkö
Joni Pekkala, email@example.com, tel:+358447225360
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