Combined Cycle Power Plants these days are like gas stations; whenever one starts up, another one crops up across the corner. Competition between CCGT plants is fierce. One day you’re up and running with a lean ‘multi-craft’ staff, and the next you’re down two operators that went to the other guy for a few more dollars. Losing one or two employees if you’re a large coal plant isn’t an alarming scenario, but as a CCGT plant with a team of only three on four shifts, that translates to a much larger percentage of your workforce. That means higher risk, which puts a great strain on you to bring new operators and technicians in and get them up to speed.
That’s the nature of the business and we’re not here to say it’s changing any time soon. However, using a power plant simulator provides a more efficient means to get these new employees proficient on your operations.
Why simulators are the answer
Plant Simulation Versus On-the-Job-Training (OJT)
Learning-by-doing is key to knowledge retention. While many combined cycle power plants claim that they can’t justify the expense of simulation training, the fact is that simulation is significantly more efficient than traditional on-the-job-training (OJT).
OJT is limited to the situations occurring during a given shift. If you’re a new operator at a base loaded plant, you’re not likely to get much experience starting up and shutting down. If there was a plant specific simulator, the new operator could practice the shutdown procedures many times before having to do a real shut down. When it’s time to restart the plant, simulation training helps ensure you get your plant back online as quickly and efficiently as possible. Operators gain both competence and confidence that is only possible with a plant specific simulator.
Similarly, if you’re relying on OJT for training new operators and technicians, the new employees won’t be able to hone their troubleshooting skills in a real-world environment. You’re not going to fail a piece of equipment just for practice, but wouldn’t it be nice to practice that scenario in a safe environment with plant specific equipment? Hence the appeal of a plant specific simulator.
Whether new operating conditions, constraints or recommendations are being handed down by your ISO, the EPA, FERC, NERC or if you need to squeeze more performance out of your plant, a custom simulator allows your operators to hone their skills. Considerable value is also provided as a real-time, dynamic simulator allows your engineers to test and prove new modifications and operating procedures in a safe environment with realistic “plant” feedback.
Plant specific simulators train staff on your exact operation and specific challenges
Operators and technicians often jump from one plant to the next, but no two are exactly alike. You run the risk of missing your contractual obligation to your ISO to deliver megawatts or may face environmental fines. With tight startup constraints around emissions, making a mistake or not being able to efficiently recognize and mitigate abnormal conditions can cause you to exceed your emissions limits and even extend or postpone your time to start. Additionally, a power plant simulator allows you to exactly replicate those unfortunate out-of-spec conditions. This specific scenario-based training helps ensure that the same mistakes are minimized.
I don’t have an Instructor, so how can I use simulation training?
A common question when purchasing a power plant simulator is who will be the instructor? While training departments are enviable, this doesn’t mean that CCGT plants can’t reap the rewards of a plant specific simulator. While a supervisor or lead operator often assumes this role, simulators can be equipped with automated plant procedures (APP) that will allow your operators and technicians to self-train on pre-built scenarios. APP provides the opportunity for your CCGT operators and technicians to practice normal, abnormal and infrequent operations and diagnose and troubleshoot malfunctions on their own and just-in-time.
The question is not whether you can afford simulation training, but whether you can afford not to have a simulator to address:
- Turnover challenges
- Knowledge capture
- Skills development
- Compliant operations