The Uniper Operaite team is made up of 11 members-including highly qualified engineers, AI experts and software developers-who have worked together to develop the first AI tool that can be used to control processes in gas power plants.
The AI tool was originally invented, developed and patented at Uniper for a different type of power plant. 'Following the inquiry into our power plants, we proceeded with developing the tool and adapted the AI to the needs of the Franken power plant,' says Tobias Mathur, who has worked alongside founder Frank Gebhardt to expand the Operaite team since 2019.
Project Manager Dr. Thomas Lanz trained the artificial intelligence for use at the Franken site and it has been used as an AI assistant in the control room since the beginning of November. As part of the ongoing first phase, the AI is providing real-time recommendations for controlling the power plant, which can be checked during live operation and adopted by the plant operator. During the second phase, the AI operator function will be activated, which will send the recommendations directly into the field automatically. As a result, the AI tool will optimize the operating processes and increase the performance of the power plant. In addition, optimizing processes cuts specific emissions, thereby contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
For the Franken power plant, it is important to be on the grid during times of peak demand for electricity and deliver the highest possible performance and availability. However, its maximum power output is limited by technical limitations and the prescribed emission limit values. Because block 1 does not have an integrated flue gas purification system, the plant operator can only adjust the emission values by directly adjusting the combustion process.
This means that the maximum power output depends largely on the decisions and experience of the plant operator. The operator can usually make corrections to various parameters in order to keep the carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions below the maximum limit values. The most significant of these parameters is the fact that the operator can adjust the total amount of air that is supplied during the combustion process. Until now, controlling this complex and dynamic process has signified extra work for the plant operator.
The AI tool can now help to increase the maximum power output-an important economic advantage-and help to reduce emissions at the same time. To do this, the AI tool runs in the background and corrects the total amount of air, so that all flue gas parameters are set to the best compromise automatically and proactively at all times.
The sophisticated tool supports the plant operator and helps to improve the control of the process. 'And the operator can focus on their real job - ramping up the power plant toward full capacity,' says Dr. Thomas Lanz. 'To achieve this, the AI tool was initially trained using historical process data and then tested extensively. We only installed the AI tool once it was able to handle every operating situation well,' explains Tobias Mathur. The results are clear to see: Even during the first days of operation, the AI recommendations improved the process conditions. We are excited for what the future holds.
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