Customer service is playing an increasingly important role in the energy business. Ansaldo Energia’s collaboration with EniPower in Italy is a case in point.

Carlo Luzzatto, Ansaldo Energia SpA, Genoa, Italy

In recent years, liberalization has dramatically changed the structure of the electricity value chain. The unbundling of different services, once part of vertically integrated monopolies, has further boosted the search for competitiveness across all industry players.

Nowadays, electricity is considered one of the most volatile commodities and as such is increasingly related to the financial markets. It is therefore not surprising that the interest of power producers has shifted from preserving and protecting their assets, to managing and optimising them.

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The supplier of such generating assets can play a big role in this endeavour, as its role changes from a supplier of plants or machines to a supplier of advanced service solutions. As with other manufacturers, long term service agreements (LTSAs) are becoming the cornerstone of Ansaldo Energia’s service business. This is the contractual relationship which allows value creation through technology and smart decision making for operation and maintenance (O&M).

With this vision in mind, Ansaldo Energia has decided to invest heavily in service technologies by almost doubling its research and development budget in 2005, compared to 2004.


Figure 1: Service solutions are now on offer that assist utilities’ drive towards asset optimization
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During the past ten years, Ansaldo Energia has signed more than 15 LTSAs, supporting some of the key customers of its gas turbine fleet worldwide with total service assistance.

By achieving proactive maintenance through condition-based information; optimizing lifecycle cost through strategic spare part pooling; introducing low emission combustion systems, and other innovative services, key global utilities and power producers, such as Enel, EniPower, Tractebel and ERG have been able to generate additional value for their shareowners.

The EniPower project is a typical case where such innovative approaches are being deployed and can make the difference.

EniPower

The privatization of the electricity sector in Italy was launched with the so-called “Decreto Bersani” in 1999, which defined the application of the general directives issued by the European Union back in 1996. In this new framework, Enel (the National Electrical utility, until then operating as a monopoly) was forced to sell more than 50 per cent of its generating power to three so-called ‘Newcos’.

A few emerging actors decided to bet on their own structure and planned a move into the power generation market based on their sites and financial capabilities.

One of these is EniPower, built from Eni’s experience in the energy sector, which is playing a leading role in Italy’s liberalized electricity market. Born in 1999, EniPower is the company within the Eni group responsible for the development of businesses related to electricity.

This plan was commercially integrated as part of the EniPower gas business, so it hit the ground running, and in 2003 EniPower became the first new operator to start up new power plants in Italy. EniPower currently has installed capacity of 2200 MW, with short to medium term plans to reach 5000 MW.


Major overhaul of a V94.3A2 performed by Ansaldo Energia
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EniPower needed a strong technical partner, capable of assuring technology, competence and quality of service, enabling them to guarantee execution of a very aggressive business plan. At the end of an international tender, in December 2000 Ansaldo Energia was selected for the challenging task.

Within the broad scope of the contract, Ansaldo Energia took the responsibility for the supply, installation and commissioning of the principal equipments of the new combined cycle plants: steam turbines, turbogenerators and gas turbines (see Table 1).

A six-year LTSA was also included in the contract, including 50 000 equivalent operating hours for all 12 power plants.

From the start, the significant number of combined cycle plants which were going into operation in “staggered parallel”, suggested a great focus on maintenance aspects. The customer’s return on investment in an LTSA contract is strongly dependent on the ability of the contractor to provide state-of-the-art technologies and world-class expertise, to anticipate technical issues, optimize scheduled and unscheduled interventions, maintain planning flexibility and optimize spare parts management.

The scope of the contract assigned to Ansaldo Energia does not include the day-to-day maintenance and the operation of the power plants, which remain under EniPower responsibility.

Under the provisions of the LTSA contract, Ansaldo Energia provides:

  • Guaranteed availability on the Power Generation groups. Clearly, availability directly and heavily impacts on the customer’s return on investment. By deploying those service technologies described below, Ansaldo Energia takes full responsibility for availability of the power train, which includes all planned and unplanned maintenance.

  • Remote monitoring & diagnostics (RM&D). This is the base for predictive maintenance and it is becoming a mandatory tool any time the supplier guarantees the availability of the power train.

    In Ansaldo Energia’s experience, swift problem solving and smart decision making are easier when experts pulled from different engineering and field service departments can check in real time the trends of the key operating parameters and simulate different scenarios (e.g. design and off-design).

    The RM&D tools therefore enter into a “troubleshooting cycle” which provides swift and proper answers to the customer as a valuable decision making support. An example of the effectiveness of RM&D in combination with expertize and root cause analysis investigations is the recently experienced slight variation in vibrations which was recorded on turbine generator unit 1 at the Ferrera Erbognone power plant. Such vibration was detected upfront, before any potential emergency shutdown could occur. EniPower’s operating staff were alerted, and the best suitable shutdown time was agreed between EniPower and Ansaldo Energia.

    The following on-site inspection showed initial damage involving the first rows of turbine blades, a few blades of which were quickly replaced. Quite clearly, the early detection allowed a fast intervention and avoided more extensive damages. The power plant was back into operation within the shortest possible time.

  • Management and pooling of spare parts. Ansaldo Energia’s stock part management is becoming a cornerstone of LTSA productivity. Parts are classified within categories, each of which is treated differently as far as availability, replenish and repair criteria are concerned.

    It is an integral part of Ansaldo Energia’s LTSA approach to provide customers with several different proposals for spare parts management. The customer generally picks the one that best fits with its own O&M structure and strategy. Considering the high economic value of several spare parts, stock management becomes a significant factor in the lifetime cost of a power plant.

    The availability of the so-called “strategic spare parts”, such as gas turbines, turbogenerators, MLP steam turbines rotors, gas turbine compressors blades and bearings, are especially important in case of failures and unplanned overhauls, in order to limit downtime and unavailability.

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    A sound stock parts management system, taking full advantage of pooling concepts whenever applicable (and it certainly is in the EniPower case, with several new identical power plants going into parallel maintenance cycles), is available to Ansaldo Energia’s customers.

    Ansaldo Energia foresees a growing interest around the pooling concept as one of the main productivity drivers in power plant operation. For this reason, within its R&D budget, Ansaldo Energia is investing in advanced statistical software tools which allow optimization of pooling across a large customer base. The outputs are directly connected to the supply chain management system, thus guaranteeing a fast execution response.

    By allowing a case-by-case “sizing” of the total fleet on which the pooling is based, the tool is capable of granting not less than 99.9 per cent availability level of strategic parts, in any prospective scenario.

    On-site rapid availability of spare parts is granted by Ansaldo Energia’s fully equipped containers, which are easily moved to power plants, where they stay as long as necessary.

    Looking forward

    In the new liberalized energy market the relationship between the operator and the constructor of the power plant becomes a key driver of the efficiency of the value chain, especially when the latter is chosen as the service partner for the life of the electricity assets.

    The huge competition in place in the energy sector is placing increasingly severe technical demands the machinery and its operation.

    Innovation will be the key differentiator on the market, which will maximize asset optimization. The deployment of state-of-the-art engineering services will be essential to all players, and their effectiveness will mark the line between the winners and the losers.