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Technology Attributes for Successful Optimization

Belated Wishes for an Optimal New Year

Peter Spinney

Market and Technology Assessment

NeuCo, Inc.

2/12/2015 4:08:37 PM

With the holidays and Superbowl behind us and the worst of winter quite possibly just getting started, I wanted to wish everyone a belated Happy New Year. And what exciting year it is going to be, for NeuCo and for our customers.


Undoubtedly the biggest development is our recently finalized partnership with Alstom, whose equipment provides 25% of the electricity consumed by the world. By combining Alstom’s position as a leading Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) for power plants and NeuCo’s advanced power plant optimization software, our two companies are able to provide customers with a unique solution for plant optimization. In the words of our CEO Peter Kirk:


“NeuCo has developed a robust suite of optimization software products that generate value at more than 100 installations every day. I am personally very excited to partner with Alstom to offer a new level of efficiency, availability and emissions benefits to the steam generation market. We believe this partnership adds strength to strength and that together, NeuCo and Alstom bring a unique pairing of best-in-class software with best-in-class boiler expertise that will benefit our customers and the broader industry.”


For NeuCo, some of the key advantages of the partnership include leveraging Alstom boiler expertise and service capabilities which will make us more scalable and allow us to focus on further refining our optimization software platform. It also gives NeuCo an inside view on how to integrate optimization of the boiler with mills, fuel delivery and back end systems.


For Alstom, primary advantages include bringing their expertise to bear on an established software product to benefit customers now, establishing new products which leverage existing Alstom technologies such as Low NOx Burners (LNB), SNCR, Natural Gas conversions, Boiler Electronics; bolstering their “smart parts” and services strategies; increasing field service utilization and effectiveness, and furthering Alstom’s business goal to be the technology leader in safety, environmental compliance, boiler reliability, and cost reduction.


The immediate focus for the partnership is NeuCo’s closed-loop boiler optimization technology – CombustionOpt, and BoilerOpt - enhanced by Alstom’s expertise and service capabilities. Our companies are already however, collaborating on several new product offerings focused on emerging industry operational and regulatory challenges, including further NOx limits, MATS requirements, and increasing competitive pressures from expanded competitive wholesale markets, low gas prices and industry consolidation.


I have by now had the opportunity to discuss this new partnership with key existing customers and prospective new customers alike, and am happy to report that there is widespread excitement and enthusiasm about how the combination of industry-leading boiler expertise and optimization software can help control emissions, minimize operating costs and improve commercial availability.


NeuCo remains steadfast in our efforts to continuously improve both our optimization applications and the underlying ProcessLink software platform that supports them. We have also broadened our product portfolio to include several new applications to improve the efficiency and profitability of natural gas-fired combined cycle plants. These applications include both closed-loop plant-level applications such as duct burner optimization; and market facing applications such as maximum/minimum day-ahead capability prediction.


In these new applications ProcessLink’s adaptive on-line learning neural networks are used in combination with rigorous thermodynamic modeling to employ the most efficient possible firing regime (i.e. loading across combustion turbines, HRSGs, duct burners, and steam turbines) while meeting the maximum capacity and load-following commitments bid into a Regulation Ancillary Services Market in a manner that maximizes plant profitability.


We also continue to make significant enhancements to our closed-loop BoilerOpt and CombustionOpt applications for our coal-fired plants. A new neural network modeling methodology, referred to as “disturbance rejection” modeling has been developed, patented proven out and made part of the ProcessLink toolbox. By focusing on changes in data values as opposed to the values themselves, this methodology is ideally suited to the large amounts of noise inherent to coal-fired combustion processes.


SootOpt, BoilerOpt’s sootblower optimization module, has also been substantially enhanced with the hybrid empirical-thermodynamic capabilities available through ProcessLink. Specifically, adaptive on-line learning neural network models are employed to predict the changes in both calculated cleanliness factors and the heat duties of boiler heat transfer devices due to sootblower activation. The use of thermodynamics allows soot blower selection to be informed by the impacts on both local cleanliness and overall heat duty; and using a combination of thermodynamic calculations and neural modeling means that blower selection is based on actual plant performance over time and not a simple comparison with design conditions.


All these new features and enhancements are consistent with NeuCo’s commitment to continuous improvement and advancing to state of the art for real-time optimization of fossil-fired power generation plants – whether it being coal, oil or natural gas. But more importantly, they are already contributing to greater and more consistent operational results and bottom-line financial benefits. And I truly believe it is fair to say we have really just begun. With the Patriots winning the Superbowl the year has started off in a high note for our Boston based company, paving the way for a path breaking and productive year ahead.

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