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The following article "Today's IT design tools redefine life cycle," appeared in the January/February 1999 edition of POWER. Copyright 1999 by The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Jump to this article's section on Projects, reporting on SOAPP's SOAPP WorkStation.

1. Electronic design information, such as a CAD file, often is unusable to power plant personnel who can't access the specialized software. But new suites of compatible software promise to capture and use information throughout the plant life cycle.














Information once used strictly to design and build the plant is now being accessed for long-term operations and maintenance. A suite of compatible software not only improves the transition from construction to operation, but enables concurrent design and engineering during earlier stages of the project.


By Robert Swanekamp, PE,
Senior Editor

To the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor, life cycle begins with conceptual design and ends with acceptance testing and the handoff of the "turnover package" to the owner/operator. Viewing the plant in his rearview mirror, the contractor is certain that all the information the operator will ever need to know is neatly contained in the mountain of electronic data, documents, spreadsheets, and computer-aided design (CAD) files he left on the control-room shelf.

To the owner/operator, life cycle begins "soon as the demand EPC contractor goes away," and ends after 30 years of long-term operations and maintenance (O&M). He will spend much of those three decades, especially early on, feverishly inputting information to computer-based maintenance management systems, regulatory compliance reports, process control systems, performance monitoring systems, and countless other information systems required to keep his plant competitive.

Much of the information he needs, of course, is in that mountain of a turnover package. But inevitably, the EPC's files reside in a dozen different software applications, not one of which is compatible with the dozen different software applications the operator uses. The operator can't be too hard on the EPC, because even his own dozen software applications aren't compatible with one another.

Moral of the story: Information stored away in a vault—whether a literal or electronic one—is no information at all.

How suite it is

Fortunately, several information technology (IT) companies have begun linking different software applications, creating a suite of compatible products that span the entire project life cycle—from conceptual design through long-term O&M. The suite of products also promises to cut the cost and time of project development, connecting worldwide participants from multiple companies and disciplines so that they can work concurrently. Engineers, procurement specialists, equipment vendors, construction managers, owners, operators, even regulatory compliance agencies will be able to review and modify the project through every step of development—in synchronized, efficient fashion. At least that's the theory.

Key to the suite of software-marketed under such labels as plant continuum, life-cycle services, and data asset approach-is a single data base, properly integrated, supported by appropriate applications, and provided with interfaces to real-time information. The goal is to break through the traditional delineations between conceptual and detailed design, engineering and procurement, construction and O&M, and so on. It's all part of the broader trend of using IT as a comprehensive, competitive tool—not just for simple automation of repetitive tasks and administrative chores.

Lotus blooms

Many power producers have taken a first step toward the life-cycle approach through Lotus Notes, supplied by Lotus Development Corp., Cambridge, Mass. The application connects a utility's thousands of employees, as well as vendors, customers, and regulatory agencies. Examples: Duke Power Co., Charlotte, NC, and Florida Power & Light Co. (FP&L), Juno Beach, Fla.

Duke uses Lotus Notes to create "virtual project teams" that form, execute, and disband when the assignment is finished. Managing virtual teams, whose members may be located on opposite sides of the state, is easier with one enterprise-wide information system already in place, the utility has found. With Lotus Notes, Duke employees access and manage multiple data forms, including text, graphics, photo images, spreadsheets, or slide presentations. As a result, the utility believes it is more tightly tied together, leading to faster decision-making and greater knowledge in all corners of the company.

FP&L uses Lotus Notes to, among other things, manage the chemical analysis of water samples from 11 different generating stations. Samplers take laptops into the field and enter sample histories and dates directly into the Notes application database. After returning to the lab, analysts maintain chain-of-custody records and track status of the samples with the same software. Once the lab completes its analysis, a report is compiled and automatically distributed, still using Lotus Notes. The process simplifies record keeping, cuts administrative costs, and preserves information in a way that makes it easily available if needed in the future.

Java's caffeine kick

Bentley Systems Inc., Exton, Pa. Is one of several software developers taking the life-cycle approach several steps further. Through what it calls the "Bentley Continuum," the company links multiple software applications and makes extensive use of the Internet to, as it says, "go beyond the boundaries of single-point solutions."

One of Bentley's most recent products is MicroStation/J, a Java-based engineering modeling tool that is intended to allow enterprises to operate global extranets, connecting worldwide participants regardless of platform—PC, Internet browser, or mobile device. The system also allows sharing of "live" information among engineering applications and enterprise systems—such as Oracle Applications or SAP R/3.

Bentley's affiliate Jacobus Technology Inc., Gaithersburg, Md., applies the philosophy specifically to the power industry, through "Plant Continuum." A key element is the ability to make sophisticated yet practical use of the Internet as the chief global connectivity medium. A Jacobus representative points out that participants large power projects traditionally achieve connectivity by installing expensive, dedicated lines around the world for point-to-point communications or to expand wide-area networks. But the company spokesman believes that these companies can no longer afford to "wire the world," and should instead rely on the Web. The company's JSpace technology, the core architecture of Plant Continuum, is built from the ground up on the technologies and standards of the Internet—TCP/IP, HTML, VRML, and Java.

Another key element of Plant Continuum, according to Jacobus, is that it provides users the means to easily control object behavior and relationships without ever touching the software program. Most software suppliers today are incorporating object-oriented technology in their products. But the Jacobus representative argues that the benefits of object-oriented implementation typically apply only to the supplier, not to the user.

"Can end users extend the objects?" Jacobus asks. "Can they change object behavior? Create new objects? Can any of these be done without access to the source code?" Jacobus technology, according to the supplier, does enable these activities, thereby extending ownership of the objects to end-users. Jacobus technology recently was selected by Vogt-NEM Inc., Louisville, Ky., a major supplier of heat-recovery steam generators, for comprehensive implementation. Vogt's suite of selections include PlantSpace Design Series 3D, PlantSpace P&ID, PlantSpace Enterprise Navigator, and PlantSpace Integration Tools.

Recent picks

A different suite of products, known as Plant Design Management System (PDMS), recently was selected by an alliance of four EPC contractors—ABB Lummus Global, Bloomfield, NJ, Brown & Root, Houston, Tex., Kvaerner, Milford, Ohio, and Stork Engineers & Contractors.

The first PDMS, launched in 1976 by Cadcentre Inc., Wilmington, Del, may have been the world's first 3D plant design system. The updated technology, referred to as PDMS Global, allows multiple participants at multiple sites to share design data while being connected using conventional communications technology (Fig. 1). Although the data are stored locally at each individual project location, the overall project administration is conducted from a nominated central location, or hub. The hub can be relocated to other sites at any time during the project.

With PDMS Global, on-line automatic data synchronization replaces manual methods of updating a project, and the entire project team has access to current design information at all times.

Nuclear plants lead the charge

Another company linking software for a plant's life-cycle is EA Systems Inc., Alameda, CA. It believes that the investment in resources made at the design stage of a project creates a set of "data assets" that can be used throughout the plant's life. The software company, teaming with Duke Power, recently demonstrated the approach at the McGuire nuclear station.

Using EA Systems' PASCE software suite—the name stands for Plant Applications and Systems for Concurrent Engineering—Duke created a data base comprised of plant schematics and equipment data—including all piping and instrument drawings (PIDs), instrument details, connection diagrams, electrical load lists, and control-loop/logic drawings (Fig. 2). The data base then was linked directly to the plant's instrument and control (I&C) systems, so that on a regular basis, it is automatically updated to reflect the current states of all plant systems. This "living data base" is then used to both manage operations and produce the documentation needed to meet regulatory requirements.

2. A 'living data base'—comprised of PIDs, connection diagrams, etc.—can be built using a suite of compatible software applications.

Since implementing the PASCE suite, Duke has trained over 400 employees from the design, construction, and operation departments and accessed it for more than 200 plant projects. Some of these projects include concurrent engineering efforts with teams from multiple organizations and different cities simultaneously working the project. In a typical project, new HVAC, piping, and conduit routes are laid out on a single model, and interference checks conducted daily. The design thus evolves more accurately and quickly than before.

By using the computer-based design information as a "data asset," Duke estimates that its cumulative saving will reach at least 25% of McGuire's total installed cost over the 30-yr life-cycle of the facility. In fact, Duke now sees the entire business of running a nuclear plant as an "information management task."

Design-basis information

Other nuclear utilities have applied the data asset approach, though not under that label, to more economically satisfy regulatory requirements. Information about the design, operating, and licensing basis of a nuclear plant is vital to its safe operation. Such information changes over a plant's design, construction, and operating life cycle, and these changes must be accurately tracked to meet internal and regulatory requirements.

As part of a commitment to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), ComEd, Chicago, IL, issued a plan for improving quality and access to design-basis information at the end of 1996. The plan defined a multi-million dollar, multi-year effort for validation and reconstitution, where necessary, of the design bases at all six of ComEd's nuclear facilities. A key element of the plan is an enterprise-wide data base that captures design-basis functions, their references, and their relationships with other functions, documents, systems, structures, and components.

With assistance from Sargent & Lundy LLC, Chicago, Ill, two software tools have been developed to support the ComEd project: one for data acquisition, called the Design Basis data base—or DBdb—and one for data navigation and retrieval, called StationBasis (Fig. 3).

3. Nuclear plants, with their strict regulatory requirements, can benefit from the life-cycle software approach.


The project should help ensure that the most current, official sources of design, licensing, and operating basis information are used at its plants. In addition, it is expected to deliver cost savings-through work-process automation, faster information retrieval, and reduction of printing, distribution and filing of hard copies—of $100,000 per year.


You're probably aware that dozens of new potential power projects are announced every week. One recent study counted more than 40,000 MW of merchant plants that supposedly will be built in the US over the next five years. Most analysts agree that few of these will ever be completed. Then consider that for each potential project, more than 100 proposals may be submitted, and you'll understand the enormous pressure that EPC contractors are under to reduce proposal development costs while still delivering accurate, project-specific, financially viable designs.

One of the new suites of software products can help. For example, SEPRIL, LLC, Chicago, IL, offers SOAPP, for State-of-the-Art Power Plant. Note: This suite of products was originally developed by Sargent & Lundy, Chicago, IL, under the sponsorship of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Palo Alto, Calif., but its commercial applications are now developed, supported, and maintained by SEPRIL.

Centerpiece of SOAPP is WorkStation, which is intended to automate the plant design process: generating heat and material balances, equipment sizing, drawings, cost estimates, construction schedules, and financial analysis based on user-defined equipment, site, environmental, fuel, and economic criteria (Fig. 4).

4. Design and engineering phases can be substantially streamlined by use of IT tools.

WorkStation provides a complete customized set of preliminary design documents. Drawings, which are in DXF format, can be viewed in WorkStation or exported to a commercial CAD package. Similarly, reports can be printed directly from WorkStation or pasted into text documents or spreadsheets built with other commercial software.

SOAPP was successfully applied by Central & South West Energy Inc. (CSWE), Dallas, Tex, for a new power project in eastern Washington—one that is moving toward completion, but not before many alternative designs had to be considered.

As originally conceived, the project was to be a 914-MW combined-cycle plant using four F-class gas turbines, with mechanical-draft cooling towers for heat rejection. But regulatory agencies raised concerns about the project's demand on the local water table, so over the next two years, CSWE had to investigate alternative cooling designs—including dry cooling using air-cooled condensers and once-through cooling using water from a river15 miles away.

CSWE needed to rapidly develop a series of reports on the alternative designs and respond to as many as 10 new questions every month from the regulators. The two-year review process culminated in a full-blown environmental review, which CSWE was able to promptly and cost-effectively respond to, thanks to the powerful SOAPP suite.

Through SOAPP, CSWE engineers accessed current equipment lists, cost estimates, and performance data for each of the alternative designs. The software was then able to run "what if" scenarios to compare the various dry-cooling and once-through cooling alternatives.

The software clearly demonstrated that pumping equipment, installation, construction, and operating cost for the 15-mi, 6 ft-diameter pipe would be prohibitively expensive. When the final discussion was made to alter the design to air-cooled condensers, much of the process engineering had already been done, and the fully scoped project was able to move promptly to the next phase.

The latest addition to WorkStation is Version 1.7 of the SOAPP-CT WorkStation for combustion turbine-based power and cogeneration plants. Version 1.7 adds performance, emissions, and cost models for nine new commercial turbines, updated information on 54 others, plus a variety of new features and capabilities.

  1. Jacobus Technology Inc., Gaithersburg, Md., "Plant Continuum: Solutions for the Global Dimensions of the Plant Industry," October 1997
  2. K. Adamson, EA Systems Inc., Alameda, Calif., "The Data Asset Approach: A model for Plant Life Cycle Management"
  3. J. S. Brtis, Sargent & Lundy LLC, Chicago, Ill, and A. C. Kickson, ComEd, Chicago, Ill, "Cost-Effective Computerization of Design Basis Information," American Power Conference, Chicago, Ill
  4. D. P. Ringhausen and others, EPRI, Palo Alto, Calif., "Information Age Technology for Power Generation Project Development"


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