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Creating a Corporate-Based Outage Strategy for Power Plants

Interview With Mike Crosson, Director of Planning & Scheduling at Calpine Corporation

NEW ORLEANS, LA -- (Marketwired) -- 05/01/14 -- Year after year, power plants come out of their outage seasons looking for ways to strengthen their planning and scheduling tools and strategies. Technology, communication, and a management approach are some of the factors that affect how power generation professionals achieve the best possible outage results.

Mike Crosson, Director of Planning & Scheduling at Calpine Corporation recently spoke with marcus evans about key topics to be discussed at their upcoming 13th Annual Outage Management for Power Plants (OMPP) Conference, July 29-31, 2014 at the Astor Crowne Plaza in New Orleans, LA.

What does your Planning/Scheduling group look like at the corporate level?

MC: The planning and scheduling efforts at the corporate level are similar to at the plant level only multiplied. Outage Services has responsibility for the turbine and generator major maintenance portions of the outages or most work on the turbine and generator proper. The plants are responsible for the HRSGs and other equipment or auxiliary systems. Most plants have some type of outage every few months. Some are very short and require little corporate involvement except to track the events. Some require extensive planning and coordination between the turbine and other site work. A large combined cycle plant has a turbine outage once or maybe twice a year and a smaller or peaking type plant may have a turbine outage every 2-5 years.

At the fleet level, there are 60+ forecasted outages per year. Our fleet consists of 30+ makes and models and as many different configurations as there are plants. The magnitude of volume and variability make managing the fleet a different exercise than that faced by a plant team managing only their own facility. The main difference between a plant planning project and corporate planning project is the intimacy factor. A plant becomes very familiar with the issues and details of their facility. Corporate planning is much more dependent on others and system information.

Cost efficiency for outage management is a major topic of discussion in the industry. Do you incorporate real-time budget tracking into your planning/scheduling system? If so, what does the process look like?

MC: Tracking in and of itself does not lead to efficiency during an outage. However, tracking repeatable scopes can lead to efficiency improvements. I've found tracking costs are primarily for a control function or after-the-fact accounting function -- both are needed, but tracking is not typically used effectively to reduce costs. If effort does not reduce outage cost or increase sales, then by definition it is not a high value activity. To estimate the level of tracking to be effective, it should be set to the minimal amount to meet regulations and increased proportional to the level of opportunity of making cost or sales improvements.

A corporate-based outage group deals with multiple plants that are managed by different entities. How do you go about collaborating with plant employees who answer to a different authority?

MC: Both the corporate and plant outage teams have the same ultimate goal of getting the unit operating quickly and well. There are budgetary concerns that sometimes arise, but Calpine has internal Divisions of Responsibility (DOR) that address most of these concerns. Also the turbine work is typically critical path for the plant so this helps us to focus on the issues and resolutions with minimal consternation.

How has new software and other technology affected your planning process?

MC: There are a couple aspects to this that apply to planning as well as business in general. I'll speak to the use of technology such as texting & e-mails. Electronic messaging has replaced conversation and traditional meetings with agendas, notes and summary action items. It has made the passing of information much easier but in many ways it has hindered communication.

  • A single issue can generate 20 or more e-mails with different conversation lines. The time to read, understand, file and comment via typing either on the computer or smart phone is time-consuming and singularly effective.
  • High volume electronic traffic leads to some e-mails not being read in a timely manner, if at all.
  • Facial and body language is missing and leads to misunderstanding a situation, intent or instruction.
  • Long e-mail trains can have buried details that can be missed.
  • Finally, there are the always present errors caused by poor typing, auto correction features, and texting language creeping into business applications.

All of these can lead to errors in scoping and other planning functions that can be avoided with meetings or even conference calls (provided that people are not multi-tasking during the conversation).

Once outage season ends each year, what is your process to plan for the next year? From past outage seasons, what are some takeaways that have been implemented into your strategy for the following year?

MC: At the fleet level, there are two outage seasons a year, the spring and fall. Therefore, Calpine is in constant planning mode. Calpine is organized with an Outage Operations group and Planning & Scheduling group. The Planning and Scheduling group is focused on the next season and the 5-year forecast, while the Outage Operations group is focused on executing the immediate season's work. Both groups work closely together throughout the year and this has led to multiple improvement initiatives.

The Operations group conducts post-season reviews of selected outages in order to perform a "deep dive" into the project's performance including resources, tools, parts, finance, schedule and quality. Calpine recently initiated a customer feedback loop to understand the customer's perspective more thoroughly. With a couple hundred events being performed annually, it is difficult to improve every shortcoming. Therefore, this data is being captured, categorized, assessed for value/impact and used to develop improvement projects that will have the highest impact to the company.

Michael has been in the turbine/generator maintenance industry for 16 years with both Siemens and Calpine Corporation starting as a Field Engineer, Project Manager, Service Manager and now Director. His experience has involved Nuclear, Coal and Gas Turbine outages both domestically and abroad. Calpine Corporation is a power producer with approximately 29 Gigawatt portfolio of operating plants throughout the US. Michael is responsible for the tools, processes and people who perform outage forecasting, scheduling and planning for approximately 50 major maintenance outages annually as well as various outage related fleet programs.

For more information regarding the highly anticipated marcus evans 13th Annual OMPP Conference, please check out the conference website or contact Tyler Kelch, Marketing Coordinator, Media & PR, marcus evans at 312-894-6310 or [email protected].

About marcus evans

Marcus evans conferences annually produce over 2,000 high quality events designed to provide key strategic business information, best practice and networking opportunities for senior industry decision-makers. Our global reach is utilized to attract over 30,000 speakers annually; ensuring niche focused subject matter presented directly by practitioners and a diversity of information to assist our clients in adopting best practice in all business disciplines.

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