SOURCE: marcus evans

marcus evans

October 13, 2014 15:15 ET

Mastering Hydro Plant Maintenance Practices for Effective Planning and Execution

Interview With Gary Jarl, Senior Maintenance Engineer at BC Hydro

SEATTLE, WA--(Marketwired - Oct 13, 2014) -  As hydro plants grow older, so does the workforce. Both present pressing challenges in the maintenance and reliability space. Technology continues to upgrade as infrastructure continues to age and fall apart. Maintenance managers and superintendents are tasked with the responsibility of reconciling these opposing factors. But these same employees -- many of whom have amassed decades of experience at specific plants -- are headed for retirement; meanwhile, utilities and energy companies are left struggling to replace them with equally as experienced workers.

Gary Jarl, Senior Maintenance Engineer at BC Hydro recently spoke with marcus evans about key topics to be discussed at their upcoming 4th Annual Hydro Plant Maintenance & Reliability Conference, November 4-6, 2014 at the Grand Hyatt Seattle in Seattle, WA. All responses represent the view of Mr. Jarl and not necessarily those of BC Hydro.

How long have you been involved in Hydro O&M? Have you worked for other Utilities or at other plants?

GJ: I've been involved with Hydro Operations and Maintenance for the last 15 years, all with BC Hydro. I've been Senior Maintenance Engineer for the Lower Mainland Generation Area for 10 years. Prior to that, I was Senior Maintenance Engineer for the Bridge River Generation Area for 5 years. Prior to joining BC Hydro, I worked in large industrial maintenance and operations in oil and gas for 15 years.

What are the main assets (runners, governors, etc) that are maturing and aging at your facilities and how are you tracking or keeping records on how they will mature over the next 10-20 years? How do you manage the process across multiple plants?

GJ: Lower Mainland Generation consists of 7 plants. They are all at various stages of aging. Our oldest plant went online in 1930 and virtually all the equipment is original. Our newest plant went online in 1999. Most of the rest are 1950's vintage. Most of the plants have had some major equipment upgrades; in particular new governors, exciters, and protection and control systems. Some have new turbines. But all the plants have some equipment that is original. 

We don't necessarily make decisions on replacing equipment based on age alone. It is primarily condition based. We have an evaluation system called Equipment Health Rating which determines if equipment needs to be replaced and determines priorities for all the equipment in BC Hydro's fleet. Age is only one input into this. We're also looking at maintenance cost, cost of outages, failure frequency, availability of spares, and many other factors.

What strategies or practices do you employ for knowledge transfer of O&M work to younger or newer employees?

GJ: We have 3 Maintenance Engineer and one Technologist for Lower Midland Generation. In addition, we usually have an Engineer from another department on a 1 year field experience rotation and an Engineer-in-Training on a 6 month to 1 year rotation. One of my duties as the Senior Engineer is to oversee the work of the other technical positions in the area and provide mentoring for them as well. This helps us ensure we have a solid base of technical staff available for all our facilities. 

What system do you have in place to ensure that no equipment is neglected from receiving periodic maintenance checks?

GJ: We use Reliability Centered Maintenance to determine what equipment requires preventative maintenance (PM) and how often. We have a CMMS to keep track of when maintenance is due. This is a living program and changes based on what is found during PM or if unexpected failures occur.

How do you use root cause analysis to extend the lifecycle of assets?

GJ: We have a formal RCA process for forced outages. We compare these across the fleet and look for chronic failures that need to be addressed. Every RCA investigation includes a review of the maintenance program for that component to see if changes are needed to prevent that failure in the future.

What type of preventative procedures do you take part in to address small problems early on to reduce costly repairs later on?

GJ: It depends on the nature of the problem and how it effects the generating equipment. If there's potential for a high cost outage, then we'll make it a high priority. 

In terms of inspection and surveillance within the plant, what type of data is helpful to incorporate? 

GJ: We have a great deal of data available for most of our plants through our Operational Information system. It includes bearing and generator temperatures, vibration, pressure, lake elevations, etc. All the data is trended and can be viewed at anytime from anywhere with an internet connection. It's extremely useful for troubleshooting, root cause analysis, and provides early warning of problems. We also use Smartsignal to look for abnormal conditions.

Gary has more than 30 years of experience working in the maintenance field, that includes working as the Senior Maintenance Engineer for BC Hydro at the Bridge River Generation Area and Lower Mainland Generation Area. In 1979, he graduated from the University of Alberta with a B.Sc. degree in Mechanical Engineering. Gary is a native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

The marcus evans 4th Annual Hydro Plant Maintenance & Reliability Conference will build upon its former success and continue to be the preeminent peer-driven and plant level meeting to showcase the latest innovative practices from the top individuals in the hydropower maintenance community. For more information, please check out the conference agenda or contact Tyler Kelch, Marketing Coordinator, Media & PR, marcus evans at 312-894-6310 or

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