At Enel's plants in Spain, which are managed by its subsidiary Endesa, problems are studied and analysed so that they will not take place again and to prevent similar issues from rearing their head. And what used to be a matter of exclusive interest to maintenance staff is currently also being analysed by infrastructure engineers, because a broken part isn't just seen as a problem in itself, but also as the symptom of a problem that could arise again.
To this end, Endesa built a laboratory at its As Pontes plant in Galicia, whose analysis is shared to all Spanish and Latin American facilities. The plants' staff hold regular videoconferences in order to share what they have learnt and improve practices, with the purpose of reducing breakdowns and making sure that similar failures don't occur at other plants.
Boiler tube puncture data offers a rough idea of the savings that can be obtained: 80 percent of plant breakdowns are caused by problems in boiler tubes and on average between 90 and 100 punctures take place each year at Endesa's 17 coal groups in Spain.
Obviously this is a matter of extreme importance both operationally and economically, but there are also benefits to be had regarding safety.
In fact, by preventing boiler tube punctures:
- There are no restoration costs, leading to savings of about €10,000;
- The group doesn't need to be restarted, saving between €30,000 and €80,000;
- There are no financial losses due to the group not working (losses that are higher than restarting costs).
Additionally not stopping the group reduces the risk that other boiler components will break down.
According to the Head of the As Pontes laboratory and expert on generation systems Jesús de la Varga, the benefits of these highly sophisticated machines and the real-time exchange of expertise are increased by making the most of multi-disciplinary skills.
'All the telecommunications systems we have today allow us to have a group formed by specialists from very different fields,' says de la Varga. 'We can bring together our metallurgical and chemical know-how, as well as the skills of both operations and maintenance experts.'