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Alstom Power: Power Plant Control System Design

Alstom Power is one of the world's premier manufacturers of power turbines, generators, power plant equipment and indeed power plants. In addition to the design and manufacture of new machinery for wind, water, fossil fuel and nuclear power plants; a considerable portion of their business revolves around repair, replacement, refurbishment and maintenance of existing plants. In 2001, as a result of mergers and acquisitions, the control system that had been employed on many of these projects suddenly was no longer a part of Alstom's product offering. The control system electronics and software became the product of a now separate company, ABB.
In 2001 the separated company ABB, announced that the control system products were being obsoleted. In addition to the obsolescence, Alstom was now required to buy the product from ABB at a very high cost. With over 500 installations worldwide this situation presented an impending business crisis.

This may have been a good product strategy for ABB but it was endangering Alstom's continuing relationship with their power plant service clients. A division of Alstom Power, located in Midlothian Virginia, devoted to the service of steam and gas turbine customers contacted us in 2002.

Alstom's initial inquiry involved the creation of an interface card to replace one of the endangered industrial network interface cards. The cost of this card had risen to almost $25,000. Continuing to purchase this card, at that cost, was jeopardizing a whole category of upgrade projects.

These upgrade projects were based around replacement of obsolete human machine interface software and computers in the power plant's control rooms. This is the software used by the plant operators to visually monitor and control the turbines and other plant wide functions. As part of a turbine upgrade Alstom engineers use the interface card with GE's iFix (HMI) Human Machine Interface software as a modern replacement for older obsolete software.

The steep price of the cards was problematic enough but the news of its potential obsolescence by ABB threatened to wipe out a much needed service for Alstom's clients.

IMagic met with Alstom in January of 2002. After examining the documentation, we agreed to design and manufacture them a replacement for the aging interface. The resultant design provides Alstom with a reliable source for a key product at a substantially lower cost than the older ABB interface. Since that initial development we have designed and currently manufacture over 35 different products for Alstom. As of this writing more designs are in the queue with the goal of eventually replacing the ABB legacy control system in their entirety. This includes industrial networking interfaces, analog and digital I/O, speed measurement, processor cards, safety systems and individual instruments.

Our product is a plug in replacement for the old ABB system. It also now comprises a complete modern control system solution that Alstom markets not only to retrofit applications but new small systems under the trade name Alspa BlueLine Control System.