Today’s power plants are multifaceted, large-scale facilities with a very high degree of automation. The inner workings of the modern plant are more advanced and elaborate than ever before. While preventative maintenance for plant equipment tends to serve as a high priority, preservation of the plant’s control system can sometimes fall behind.

As the controls age, some plant owners may jump to a total system upgrade. And while an upgrade may make sense in some circumstances, often simple routine maintenance can replace or delay an otherwise costly investment.

Technology, cybersecurity and environmental regulations fluctuate, and it can be hard to keep up with every single change. In addition, there are times when plant staff is too busy, understaffed or less knowledgeable about the control system. In these instances, plant owners may consider reaching out to an experienced outside firm for recommendations on preventative measures to keep the plant’s control system running smoothly. There are many types of preventative maintenance to consider based on the specific needs of the control system or plant.

What types of preventative maintenance are recommended?

Alarm Management

For power plants, alarm systems have been standard for years. While the role of the alarm system is to help operators make informed decisions, sometimes it can be hard to distinguish low-priority alarms from higher-priority alarms.

By implementing alarm analysis software and reviewing these results, technicians can quickly detect issues with processes or equipment in the system and recommend actions to fix them. This gives plant operators better peace of mind that the alarms are functioning properly.

Patch Management

Cybersecurity threats at critical infrastructure facilities are a hot topic right now. In recent years, attackers have been able to gain access to more than ever before.

Software patching is one common security practice used to protect against possible threats and close the holes where the control system software may be vulnerable.

It’s important that patches are certified and tested by an experienced team before implementation. If a patch isn’t applied correctly or is used on the wrong system, the whole power plant can experience a shutdown.

Logic Review

During a logic review, which is a portion of preventative maintenance, the engineer will meticulously go through the logic and search for issues. Logic can be validated by testing the system, and logic can be reviewed before implementation.

By collaborating with a trusted partner that has experience and knowledge in the ever-changing areas of today’s technology, owners and operators can feel confident that the heart of the plant is in good condition and will keep operations rolling.


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Brandon Thorpe is an energy instrumentation and control department manager for Burns & McDonnell. He specializes in distributed control systems (DCS), control system design and power generation plants.