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How Smart Monitoring Can Improve Safety in Power Plants

(Image source: MaxPixel)

In November 2017, a power plant explosion in Unchahar City in the Uttar Pradesh state in northern Indian, left 32 people dead and over 80 others seriously injured. This news report came as a shock to the world, but the reality is that equipment failures in the energy, oil and gas, and nuclear industries are a common occurrence. NTPC Ltd.’s Unchahar power plant tragedy has been a wakeup call to the rest of the energy sector. As India’s largest electricity producer, NTPC has a responsibility to ensure the safety of its workers,and engineers have since demanded safety audits to be carried out across all plants and sites.  

Safety in general has been improved across the global market since the accident, and comprehensive training and well-maintained safety equipment have been core focuses for companies everywhere. With the growth of the IoT (Internet of Things) and AI (Artificial Intelligence), plants are now able to utilise technology to assist with safety monitoring. Here are some ways that smart technology is changing health & safety in power plants across the industry.

Improved Safety Monitoring

By using AI, the industry can ensure accurate and continued monitoring of equipment to ensure that everything is in working order, and to detect problems in advance. Being able to predict failure before it occurs not only helps to protect assets and saves companies time and money, but it can prevent accidents, deaths and workplace injury.

Failure management is an important aspect of health & safety in plants, and it is key to accident prevention regardless of the hazard. There are many start-up companies now attempting to off AI powered solutions, including the award-winning SparkCognition. Their SparkPredict® product raises machine prognostics to a cognitive level to identify impending failures long before they happen. There has also been huge advancements in ultrasonics, thickness monitoring and crack detection. UK based company, Ionix, is pioneering with products such as their HotSense™ transducers which are capable of performing in the most extreme conditions.With both AI and next generation ultrasonics, safety monitoring should be more effective than it’s ever been.

Identify Voltage Instabilities

Adding AI capabilities can also help with transmission and distribution, making it possible to predict major failures on the grid (and other areas where there is transmission and distribution of energy). This technology can be used to identify voltage instabilities, which will reduce problems such as blackouts.

Having a predictive way of working ensures that engineers have better control of the environment and can work on preventative measures. This is something that can benefit the energy customer, households and businesses everywhere. And of course, on top of the safety factors, AI is also being used to make energy more efficient and affordable. Companies, such as Drift, not only use Artificial Intelligence and data collection to streamline products, but they also use machine learning to reduce the cost of energy for consumers.

Overall, smart innovations increase the dialogue between energy producers and the end user, whether that be in a residential, commercial or industrial setting. So looking beyond the safety aspects, using AI in the energy industry can only be a good thing.

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