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Boosting power plant performance with MHPS-TOMONI

Fueled by cutting-edge analytics and a world of experience, MHPS – TOMONI is helping to turn mountains of big data into valuable actionable insights that increase your power plant efficiency and profitability. Utilities Middle East (UME) speaks with Khalid Salem, President of MHPS MENA (Middle East & North Africa), about the solution’s potential as a game changer in the electric power landscape

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                               Khalid Salem, president, MHPS MENA
Khalid Salem, president, MHPS MENA

Can you briefly tell us what Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) is and what it does?

Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) is one of the leading suppliers of digital solutions and major equipment for power plants all over the world. Known for highly reliable equipment, MHPS has a rigorous data-driven approach to the testing and validation of new technologies.

You have launched the MHPS-TOMONI solution. Can you tell us what it is and how it works?

MHPS-TOMONI® is a suite of digital solutions that are driven by customer needs and use advanced analytics and adaptive control to lower the cost of electricity and achieve environmental and business goals. This initiative began in 2015 and builds on decades of experience with advanced digital technologies, such as digital control systems, data-driven product validation, remote monitoring technologies, the latest AI techniques and advanced analytics.

The term “tomoni” means “together with” in Japanese which represents the MHPS commitment to working collaboratively with power plant owners and operators to apply the latest digital technologies to address their needs in a changing and dynamic power industry. MHPS-TOMONI is rapidly evolving and steadily creating the building blocks of the smart power plant of the future, which will ultimately be capable of whatever level of autonomous operation is desired.

What kind of feedback have you received from your customers using MHPS-TOMONI since it was launched?

Feedback from our customers has been very favorable. We developed MHPS-TOMONI in tandem with our customers to help them overcome challenges and improve plant performance. Our approach encourages open dialogue with power plant owners and operators and ensures their needs both now and in the future.

We continue to build customer testimonials and use cases that improve flexibility and plant performance, and optimize O&M. For example, we developed and implemented an AI solution at Shenhua Guohua (Beijing) Gas-Fired Cogeneration Co., Ltd., which detected 15 anomalies prior to an alarm occurrence in the two years following implementation.

What is your assessment of the rate of adoption so far?

There are hundreds of applications of MHPS-TOMONI solutions already running and helping power generators all over the world be more effective and profitable. We have seen the most rapid adoption rate in countries with evolving competitive power markets, a disruption from renewables or greater flexibility requirements.

As renewable energy grows and markets become more competitive and more challenging, we will continue to see an increase of adoption in more and more markets, including the Middle East.

What differentiates MHPS-TOMONI from other similar solutions in the market?

Rather than being just a broad do-it-yourself software platform, MHPS’ approach to digitalization is primarily targeted at addressing specific customer needs and problems, creating a scalable solution. It has been designed to coordinate smoothly with existing power generation processes and systems rather than replacing them.

MHPS partners with several best-in-class software companies to achieve the best balance between human interaction and automated O&M support.

In addition, MHPS’ smart power plant vision is being implemented in Japan at a new power plant under construction at the Takasago Machinery Works. It will be alongside the existing T-Point demonstration plant that has contributed so much over the years to creating the knowledge to maximize GTCC reliability and validate new designs, including many of the MHPS-TOMONI® digital solutions. Among other advancements, this new plant will incorporate the latest digital technologies and will be the flagship for the fleet’s journey towards the autonomous power plant of the future.

MHPS T-Point 2 Power Plant in Takasago, Japan

How important is the Middle East market to MHPS?

The Middle East is a strategic market for us with significant investments in MHPS Saudi Arabia and MHPS Middle East (UAE) as well as operations support arrangements at major user companies. MHPS continues to have a big position in both GTCC and steam plants and is making a concentrated effort to grow that position.

The Middle East power demand is evolving toward more efficient, lower cost, and low-carbon energy, in which MHPS has a very strong and diversified offering. In addition to the value provided by MHPS advanced class turbines and green energy innovations, state-of-the-art digital solutions like MHPS-TOMONI are proving successful in the region.

What is the potential of MHPS-TOMONI transforming the utilities sector in the Middle East?

MHPS-TOMONI can strongly enable a transformation of the power sector in the Middle East in very important ways: increasing average annual power fleet efficiency and achieving smoother grid integration and generation asset management to allow for a more stable and secure power supply.

Since the infrastructure in the Middle East was mostly developed in times of abundant, cheap fuel and less stringent environmental regulations, the area is challenged with high fuel costs, higher failure rates along with lower availability and reliability.

Less efficient fuels together with less efficient power generation technologies today weigh very heavily on power generation costs. This has become a top agenda concern for governments across the Middle East, and every point of efficiency and effort to optimize the fuel mix spares hundreds of millions of dollars in spending each year. Many governments are also setting aggressive green energy targets.

MHPS-TOMONI is instrumental in enabling power operators to optimize generation costs with timely cross-fleet data analytics and the ability to automate dispatch decisions. Grid management is going to be key to stabilizing power supply and managing the diverse technologies associated with green energy. MHPS-TOMONI’s ability to predict and plan equipment downtime will be crucial in securing reliable power supply while continuing to optimize generation costs.

As the Middle East makes a push towards smart cities, what role would MHPS-TOMONI play in this initiative?

Smart cities will require active interaction with smart power plants, which will need to operate more efficiently as increased renewable generation and energy storage will inherently necessitate an increase in flexibility and dispatchability from other power sources.

A smart power plant, powered by MHPS-TOMONI, could communicate with the grid and act in concert with other advanced power generation and utilization systems to help achieve the goals of smart cities. When demand increases or decreases, a smart plant will respond optimally.

Similarly, with the variability of renewables, a smart power plant will be able to ramp up to partner with renewable power and support a reliable network. Many cities, including those aiming to be smart cities, are looking for cleaner energy. Integration of MHPS-TOMONI will support a future where plants can be fueled by hydrogen, which would add even more dispatchable renewable generation and energy storage to further the goals of smart cities.

From pilot projects for smart grids, like those underway by DEWA in Dubai, to mega-projects, like NEOM in Saudi Arabia, grid integration and management systems will be the backbone of the power infrastructure in the Middle East. They will no longer rely only on the generation technologies themselves. Setting green energy targets of up to 100%, deploying diverse zero-carbon, low-carbon and carbon-capture technologies is a vision that hinges on the power of technologies like MHPS-TOMONI.

M501J GTCC Power Plant in USA with MHPS-TOMONI features

How insulated is MHPS-TOMONI from cyber threats?

MHPS-TOMONI uses the latest knowledge and technologies to address concerns about cyber threats. It has been developed and is continuously updated for compliance with the most stringent cybersecurity standards such as North American NERC-CIP, NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) Cyber Security Framework, IEC 62443 and other national and international standards.

Are there any improvements you plan to make on MHPS-TOMONI in the near future?

When we started the development of MHPS-TOMONI, our goal was to create the smart power plant of the future. We will continue the journey to meet that goal while steadily creating new solutions working together with our customers. Ultimately, MHPS-TOMONI will arm smart power plants to be capable of various levels of autonomous operation.

How do you project the rate of adoption over the next few years?

There is an accelerating global trend to increased digitalization in all aspects of society and industry. As the power market gets more and more competitive across the globe, power generators will need to improve their profitability through solutions that make their plants more flexible, improve performance and reliability, and optimize O&M. MHPS-TOMONI will be the roadmap.

In addition, the world is becoming more and more digital, requiring the power industry to get smarter through utilizing digital solutions to create the plant of the future – a power plant that can direct its own maintenance, adapt its operations to take corrective action, and seize opportunities to create more revenue.

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