Why am I writing these Case Studies and why should you listen to me?
Robert R. (Bob) Richwine
Electric Power Generating Plant Reliability Consultant
Many of you reading the case studies I will be posting on this website will know me from my many years of working in the electric power generating industry, first as the chief consulting Reliability Engineer for Southern Company’s regulated and unregulated businesses and since 2002 as an independent reliability management consultant. Others may not know me but whether you know me or not the following is intended to answer a question you should be asking “Why should I be interested in what Bob Richwine has to say?”
A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that after analyzing top performing companies in all industries around the world it was concluded that the ability to collect, analyze and Act On data is the essence of a company’s competitive advantage. Throughout my career in the power generation industry I have been given the opportunity to study reliability data and look for insights and understanding of their trends and their root causes along with the actions necessary to sustain the positive trends and to reverse the negative ones. I have also been given the opportunity to document and publish the results of many of these studies, some of which have been of substantial value to the companies for whom I have performed them. So I am compiling these studies in the hopes that you will also gain insights from them and perhaps become motivated to apply them to your work and perform new analyzes that will benefit your company. Case study topics will include how data is used in Performance Improvement Programs, Benchmarking, Generation Planning, Configuration Optimization, Operations, Goal Optimization, Maintenance Planning, Risk Management, Catastrophic Event Reduction, Life Management, Equipment Design and Peak Season Performance.
My career began working in the Aerospace industry on projects such as the Apollo moon landing program where I was introduced to the emerging discipline of Reliability Engineering (RE). Then in 1976 Southern Company, a large power company located in the southeastern region of the United States, recruited me to help create a new RE group, adapting the methods and techniques of RE pioneered in the Apollo program to the reliability analysis of electric power generating plants. This new department was one of numerous initiatives Southern Company undertook at that time to attempt to reverse the recent steep decline in its plants’ availability and reliability (one of my future case studies will go into detail about the causes of that decline). As a result of the combination of these diverse programs the equivalent availability (EAF) of the company’s 20,000+ MW of coal-fired power plants rose from a low of 68% in 1976 to over 92%, one of the highest for any coal-fired generating company in the world (again a future case study will detail the reasons for this improvement). This availability improvement, accompanied by a 5 percentage point increase in plant efficiency, yielded annual net savings of over $1.3 billion per year, an amount equal to the company’s annual net income in 1991 on revenues of $10 billion. In addition these improvements substantially reduced all emissions including 7 million tons of CO2 per year.
Following the publication of several of my technical papers and articles documenting these results at Southern Company, I was requested to assist several other companies both in the US and overseas in developing their own Performance Improvement Programs, including the New England Electric System (NEES), the Puerto Rico Electric Power Company (PREPA), the Electricity Supply Board of Ireland (ESB) and ESKOM of South Africa. While many of these companies achieved similar success, I should emphasize that in each case their success was due to each company creating its own program, addressing its own unique set of constraints and opportunities. While these companies were able to draw upon our experiences, good and bad, the final version had to be tailored to their needs. Those initial consulting assignments launched my consulting work, first as an in-house consultant at Southern and ultimately as an independent consultant. Other clients have included TVA, AES, Mirant, Reliant, PowerGen of Trinidad, Tractebel, Hawaii Electric, National Grid Company of Ireland, Duke, the World Bank, the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Energy Council.
I have been closely involved with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) beginning in the 1970’s when I supported their development of the Generating Availability Data System (GADS), the preeminent power plant reliability data system in the world with data from over 5000 power plants collected since 1982, and then later its GADS analysis software program pc-GAR. In addition I chaired NERC’s Fossil Design Review Task Force and was a charter member and chairman of its Generating Availability Trend Evaluation (GATE) Working Group, whose work I will be summarizing on this website in future case studies. Also, for over 20 years I have partnered with NERC’s Mike Curley in providing advanced benchmarking analyses to numerous US and international clients. Many of the insights we have gained will make up future case studies, including peer group selection analysis (if you don’t have the proper units in you peer group your benchmarking analysis will not be valid), basic unit and advanced component benchmarking, and a concept we introduced call High Impact – Low Probability (HILP) event benchmarking and reduction program where you can use GADS data to avoid, detect or mitigate HILP events (some call these “first time events” and while it may be the first time your unit has experienced a specific HILP event, that same event has probably happened elsewhere and will likely be in the GADS database).
For over 25 years I have been a member of the World Energy Council’s (WEC) Performance of Generating Plant (PGP) Knowledge Group and have delivered reliability workshops on behalf of the WEC in Warsaw, Prague, Kiev, India, Brussels, Moscow, Argentina, Brazil, Namibia, Nigeria, Indonesia, China, Egypt, Kenya, Jordan, Turkey, Italy, France, Germany and Thailand. I have also been active in ASME’s Reliability Committee and delivered workshops at their conferences and have supported the IEEE-762 Reliability Standards committee.
I hope you will feel free to comment on any of the case studies I will be adding over the coming weeks or to suggest new studies that you would like to see performed. Also, if you have done a similar study and would like to have me publish it on this website or would like to discuss your power plant reliability issues, please contact me directly.