One of the world's most effective and sustainable hydropower stations

Asea Master control system upgrade to System 800xA for the Blanda Hydroelectric Power Station in Iceland


During nearly 25 years, the hydroelectric power station Blanda has supplied high quality power to the inhabitants of Iceland. ABB's control system has been there from the beginning and its life has just been extended by another 20 years.

Converting melt water from the glaciers into power

From their position a few hundred meters below the Icelandic ground, the three turbines of the Blanda Hydroelectric Power Station convert melt water from the glaciers of Iceland into stable, high quality power.

They do this so well that the international standard Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol ranks Blanda as one of the best hydroelectric power stations in the world for the parameters environmental impact, social responsibility and efficiency.

One of the contributors to operational efficiency is ABB's operating system that was installed with the turbines in 1991 and has kept the plant running ever since. Despite its advanced age, the plant still works so well that the owner of Blanda, the state-owned Icelandic energy company Landsvirkjun, last year chose to prolong the life of the operating system rather than buying a completely new system.

Per Steffensen, sales manager of ABB: "The operating system of Blanda is the best visible proof that our systems really have a long life. It is the best guarantee we can give."

Main facts

Industry Energy and utilities
Customer Blanda hydropower station owned by Landsvirkjun
Country Iceland

Asea / ABB Master System Evolution to
System 800xA with

Blanda’s three 50 MW turbines are all located several hundred meters below ground. This also applies to control cabinets and other process control equipment.

Easy integration with System 800xA

The control system which was installed on Blanda in 1991 was an Asea / ABB Master system - the precursor to the later platform Advant Master DCS, which began its next step in the evolution process in 2004 with the introduction of 800xA enabled products, 800xA for Advant master.

This means that the shift to the 800xA platform could be handled relatively simple: the original Asea / ABB Master controllers were upgraded with new CPUs and then integrated into System 800xA by transferring the application programming to the new system. In addition, the plant was equipped with a few new controllers.

In this way, large parts of the control system could be upgraded without the need to design a completely new system, use expensive operating hours of commissioning, perform new electrical installations or integrate new signals into the plant.

Per Steffensen: "A significant part of the value of a control system is the application programming that has been done. We largely preserve the programming and transfer it to the new control system."

With an Automation Sentinel agreement, ABB's control system lifecycle management program, Landsvirkjun has been able to keep the proven process platform that has worked for 24 years, but now with upgraded software and hardware, enhanced user control and new functionalities such as a history database.

Through the Automation Sentinel subscription, Blanda receives the latest software corrections such as patches, revisions and new versions for all control systems covered, thus improving the performance of the control systems being the brain of the plant. Blanda also receives Microsoft® security patches and3rd party Antivirus files verified by ABB for relevance and system compatibility to secure their systems against cyber threats.

Per Steffensen, sales manager of ABB
"The operating system of Blanda is the best visible proof that our systems really have a long life. It is the best guarantee we can give."

High reliability is essential

Stable operation and reliability is crucial on the island in the Atlantic Ocean where a single 132 kV line provides all power to the urban areas along the coast. Moreover, most of technical support has to be delivered by flight from the continent.

Therefore, it was important that the engineers of Blanda could keep the operating system which they already had a lot of experience with.

Per Steffensen: "The engineers of the customer have kept the old system maintained all these years and in the same way, they are able to work on the new system. That kind of reliability is important when you are in places like here, in a plant in Iceland, where you cannot have an operation that is dependent on supervision from engineers coming from Finland or Denmark. The engineers of the plant have established a high level of competence in the course of years."

Also at Landsvirkjun they express their satisfaction with the 24-years-old operating system.

It was very important that the upgrade to the new system only required few hours of down-time of each turbine. "We were satisfied with the performance and the endurance of the old ABB system and can keep using much of the accumulated know-how. The expectations to the upgraded system are high and so far it is living up to them" says Guðmundur R. Stefánsson, Blanda Power Station Manager. "The new system enables us to work with and analyze data, both live data and data from the historical database. The new system has e.g. already improved the control of the water level of the intake reservoir. To save resources and time we bring an 800xA client with us when working in remote locations, e.g. the reservoir outlet which is approx. 25km away from the station house. Finally we can get remote support from ABB when needed saving time and money."

Landsvirkjun has recently hired ABB to provide the same type of system for a future geothermal power plant in the area around Theistareykir, which will be completed in 2017.

Guðmundur R. Stefánsson, Blanda Power Station Manager
"To save resources and time we bring an 800xA client with us when working in remote locations, e.g. the reservoir outlet which is approx. 25km away from the station house"

Additional facts

Blanda Hydropower Station

Blanda Hydro Power Station is a hydroelectric plant in North Iceland, which consists of three Francis turbines and together they supply 150 MW of power. In total, the plant has an annual production of 720 GWh.

The main water reservoir of the hydropower station is 56 km2. In the standard Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol, Blanda ranks the best hydroelectric plant in the world on the parameters Asset Reliability & Efficiency and Environmental and Social Issues Management. Generally, Blanda received the top score of 5 on 14 out of 17 parameters at the latest rating in 2013.

Blanda is owned by Landsvirkjun - a state-owned Icelandic energy company whose 14 hydroelectric power stations, two geothermal plants and two wind turbines produced 71 per cent of the electricity of Iceland in 2014. 15 per cent of the annual production is delivered to Icelandic consumers, 85 per cent are used by the aluminum, ferrosilicon and data center industries in Iceland.

Automation Sentinel Program

Automation Sentinel, ABB's Lifecycle Management Program for Distributed Control Systems, allows customers to upgrade their control system software licenses every time ABB releases new system software versions - for example to the 800xA platform. A flexible evolution path forward to upgrade earlier generation control systems towards new system technology protects the intellectual property such as operator graphics and control programs.

Whether we talk hydroelectric or a thermal power plant or offshore oil rigs, there may be great savings by extending life of equipment rather than buying new systems.

The Automation Sentinel agreement provides long-term support to Blanda to ensure long equipment life and continous process operation. The flexibility to improve the control systems over its lifecycle by adding new functionality, features and hardware will help Blanda to protect its past and present, as well as its future automation investments.

"Automation Sentinel subscriptions allow our customers to choose the level of support and the upgrade schedule that works best for immediate business needs and long-term production targets."

"Automation Sentinel is the exclusive way for ABB control system users to receive validated Microsoft security patches and Anti-virus verification reports. "

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