Improving productivity: Petra Nova Carbon Capture project
InEight is a leading provider of field-tested construction project management software for owners, contractors, engineers and architects. Its cloud-based solutions are relied upon worldwide for real-time insights that help manage risk and keep projects on schedule and under budget across the entire life cycle of the asset.
The Petra Nova Carbon Capture project added commercial-scale, post-combustion carbon capture technology to the existing coal-fired W.A. Parish Generating Station. TIC – The Industrial Company - used InEight® Plan and InEight® Progress, two of the InEight suite of project tools, during construction. The ability to clearly communicate work and project scope, provide daily work plans, and ensure operational efficiency and compliance contributed to the project’s on-time and on-budget completion.
Petra Nova is the first commercial-sized post-combustion carbon capture system in the U.S., and the largest of its kind in the world. TIC, a Kiewit subsidiary, and consortium partner, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America, finished construction of this megaproject in 2016, delivering it on time and within budget thanks in part to advanced technology.
The Petra Nova Carbon Capture project team used InEight Estimate, InEight Control, InEight Plan and InEight Progress and the team attributed a 20% increase in productivity directly to the use of this technology.
“InEight Plan and Progress made us totally rethink how we did daily work plans, quantity claiming and time collection,” says TIC Project Engineer Clay McKenzie. “The technology streamlined processes, eliminated data entry and paperwork and kept our guys out in the field instead of behind a desk.”
The power of InEight solutions are their ability to operate as part of one platform, which allows users to access and maximize the data across every aspect of a project or business.
InEight Plan and Progress are two of InEight’s field execution tools. InEight Plan provides a field-proven methodology for construction work planning and packaging. Key information is compiled in one place to efficiently organize and communicate the work. The technology lets the team define the scope of work per work breakdown structure item. Project-specific labor, equipment and material requirements are included to ensure the right resources are available when needed. Once compiled, the plan is submitted and available in the InEight Progress app where it is used to communicate to crews and track the day’s progress.
Using InEight Plan and Progress, TIC also realized a 90% savings in time required for payroll processing. This was calculated based on an average daily payroll for 500 employees, comparing manual entry to using the new technology. The technology reduced a process that traditionally took about seven hours to complete down to just one hour. Paper timecards and manual data entry were eliminated - replaced by an easy-to-use tablet app.
In addition to time capture, InEight Progress enabled foremen to record work completed for the day, note any issues and see their productivity compared to plan. One click submitted the day’s progress to the project superintendent for review. Upon approval, the results synced with other systems and were readily available for forecasting, planning and reporting.
The project team acknowledged that it’s hard to put a number on all the savings that can be attributed to the new technology used at Petra Nova. However, it’s indisputable that the tools significantly improved communication at all levels of the job, allowed management to see real-time progress at any given time and reduced the time spent creating daily work plans and reporting results.
Petra Nova, a job that required almost 1.4 million man-hours, achieved a craft-to-staff ratio of 4.2/1, which was 50% better than the average achieved by peer projects within the organization during the same timeframe. “We couldn’t have done that without these new field execution and management tools,” McKenzie says.
Accelerating solar transition with robotics and automation
Professor Tadhg O’Donovan, Head of the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Heriot-Watt University Dubai, shares his views on how robotics and automation can deliver a real impact in leading the Middle East’s transition to solar energy and in advancing the overall sustainability agenda
As the world grapples with diminishing supplies of oil and the need to reduce carbon emissions, the adoption of disruptive technologies such as robotics and automation can be an important catalyst for the proliferation of renewable energy. Current applications and research show that robotics and automation help simplify the processes involved in support of renewable energy generation, especially for solar energy sources, which results in increased productivity, and cost savings.
Solar panel placement
Robots and automation can help unload and place solar panels onto racks at huge utility-scale sites. Thanks to outdoor, autonomous robotic technology, the process for solar field assembly can be made more efficient. Moreover, due to the fragile nature of solar cells and wafers, high-speed impact robots are more suitable and gentler than manual handling which helps ensure higher throughputs with better yield. Robots support solar construction crews, not replace them which means utility-scale contractors are able to reduce large amounts of repetitive tasks and improve productivity, bolster worker safety, and produce more MegaWatt-hours, faster.
Solar panel cleaning and maintenance
Crucial tasks such as removing dust from solar cells can be automated with the help of self-cleaning robots which is otherwise risky for people. Dust removal is critical in high dust-density regions such as the Middle East to maximise the irradiance incident on the panel and to ensure the solar panels provide maximum power output and energy yield. Water-free autonomous cleaning system can save billions of litres of water over the lifetime of a plant situated in arid regions.
Manufacturing of solar power systems
Robots in the PV manufacturing process make a significant contribution due to their ability to reduce costs considerably and enhancing precision and accuracy when compared with human intervention. Manufacturers can deploy robots and automation to make smarter and swifter production decisions, which ultimately increase precision, reduces the cost of production, and improves productivity. Silicon ingot, silicon modules, solar cells, and silicon wafers are some examples of delicate components that can be produced with high precision through robotic automation.
Integrating robotics into the renewable energy industry comes with a few of challenges too. One of the largest challenges being the power grid itself which is primarily designed to transport energy from large, centralized power plants fuelled by non-renewable sources such as natural gas and oil. Hence, the current power grid requires an overhaul before solar and other forms of distributed renewable energy can be truly integrated as a viable source of power.
Fresh power grid designs
Propelling the energy industry into the future requires fresh approaches to the power grid design. The answer lies with smart power grids that can integrate various renewable energy sources and help utility companies achieve greater efficiency and sustainability.
An increase in the integration of robotics and automation in the renewable energy industry could lead to an eventual total shift from other sources of energies such as oil to greener alternatives such as solar. Finally, this will spur the creation of “jobs of the future” – especially in high-growth data, digital and robotics engineering.