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Better alarm performance delivers improved operation

Half of alarms identified as redundant to improve alarm system performance at a power generator in Northern Ireland.

Image © Premier Power Ltd, Northern Ireland.

Premier Power Ltd is the largest independent generating company in Ireland. It operates Ballylumford Power Station, one of the largest generating sites in the country, providing over 50% of Northern Ireland’s total generating capacity and 17% of the all-Ireland capacity.

Premier Power knew that the existing alarm system at Ballylumford was not able to comply with the requirements of the standard and were seeking an independent, expert view on how to improve performance as efficiently as possible while also minimising operational impact from the work.

Services provided

ABB carried out an initial assessment at C Station, Ballylumford based on our standard alarm management health check service. This study includes a benchmark against recognised good practice (in this case EEMUA 191) to establish gaps and recommendations for action. Our report concluded that there were significant alarm management issues on C Station and proposed a phased plan of improvement as follows:

Phase 1
Install an alarm logging and analysis capability, implement routine reporting of alarm system performance, author new documentation covering the design and management of the alarm system, update the station’s written procedures covering alarm related issues such as change management.

Phase 2
Implement alarm suppression logic including time delays and hysteresis, alarm rationalisation and reprioritisation of all configured alarms, improved operator support through dynamic links from an alarm to the associated graphic. This phase also included operator training in alarm management good practice and the operational changes to the system.

Phase 3
Implement continuous improvement through root cause analysis of alarm issues, focussing on nuisance alarms, standing alarms and the alarm bursts occurring during trips and other run downs.

We were subsequently engaged to mentor and lead this improvement plan. The rationalisation work identified that nearly half of the 17000+ alarms configured were redundant. These alarms were demoted to events and do not annunciate as alarms. Alarm numbers are now considerably reduced and the alarms that do occur are more useful to operators. The figure shows the trend of alarms per 10 minutes on the day the rationalised database was re-loaded into the station’s DCS.

Main data

Customer:  Premier Power Ltd
Site:  Ballylumford Power Station, Northern Ireland
Customer need:  Alarm management health check
Scope:  Alarm management strategy is delivered efficiently
Application:  Power Station
Customer benefits:
Better management and knowledge of alarms
Commissioning year: 2012

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