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Power Plants Consider Management Platforms

Source: By the Editorial Team | Date: 03/18/2010

Related tags: Power Plant, Management Platform, SDK, IP

With outdated systems come difficulties replacing, expanding and integrating. Putting all subsystems together under one management platform requires SDKs and direct manufacturer support. The migration to IP-based systems requires security managers at power plants to understand IP's benefits.


As plant buildings become increasingly complex and differ in many ways — use, size, operating hours or changing occupancy requirements, and environmental conditions — building automation systems become useful to integrate open protocol devices into a single system, said experts from Siemens Building Technologies in a prepared statement.


Migration can occur in phases. In the first phase, security managers might request certificates and proof-of-quality documentation before purchasing digital storage equipment, said Aluisio Figueiredo, COO of Intelligent Security Systems. For surveillance systems, analog storage equipment is replaced with DVRs. The next phase will see additions of network cameras for increased coverage.


"For the most part, traditional security is housed on independent networks, and power plants are slow to pick up building management systems," said Darryl Polowaniuk, Manager of Security and Fire Safety Solutions at Johnson Controls. Generally, potential changes to the system require a project charter. Input has to be collected from all stakeholders and business units to ensure the changes will not negatively impact any units or facilities, Polowaniuk said.


As such, replacing or upgrading equipment rarely happens. Expansion and integration occur more, said Anantharam Varayur, Director of Webcom Information Technology.


Access control, intrusion detection and video surveillance systems are limited in current integration. "With these subsystems, we register the alarm, show the event on the map, and display footage from cameras positioned around the perimeter," Figueiredo said. For older systems, many of the sophisticated features of access control and intrusion alarms are not part of the VMS, which means that information analysis and processing stay in separate systems.


Information Management
As most power plants have been operating for years, change is not considered lightly. In a typical control room, each subsystem has its own GUI, and the step towards building management solutions or sophisticated CMS and PSIM has not been made yet, said Richard Lack, Sales and Marketing Director at ASL Safety and Security.


However, changes are happening. "Before, multiple control rooms were used for every power plant with one or two operators," said Guy Van Wijmeersch, Market Director Utilities of Barco. "Companies are now centralizing and consolidating different control rooms into a larger one, fitting six or up to 20 operators to oversee plant safety and security."


After Sept. 11, the US North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) established an Information Sharing and Analysis Center for the electricity sector. Specific to power plants, distur- bances or unusual occurrences must be reported to the appropriate systems, governmental agencies and regulatory bodies. Current systems are unable to effectively coordinate responses with all necessary parties.


One solution is PSIM software. A central platform can access disparate security devices via SDKs and APIs, and correlate the data from these various assets to create an intelligent and unified solution without major surgery on existing security infrastructure, said David Fowler, Senior VP of Marketing and Product Development, VidSys.


The energy sector is dominated by traditional engineers who are used to last-generation SCADA systems. "We're trying to move away from SCADA systems, which have very basic mapping and information management capabilities," Lack said. "PSIM can maintain legacy interface support and cover buildings and zones, and all subsystems within, via a 3-D environment."


Visual displays in the command and control room are critical. Grouped displays like video walls and PSIM software make more information easily accessible to operators during an emergency, Van Wijmeersch said. Nuclear power plants require video walls to be approved for seismic events such as earthquakes.


Information Sharing
The NERC requires critical information to be shared with government agencies and regulatory bodies. In reality, however, communication to external law enforcement parties is achieved manually through e-mail distribution lists and hotlines. "The market for communication and sharing of information is traditional and adopts new technologies slowly. Integration of software is also expensive," said Hagai Katz, Senior VP of Marketing at Magal S3. "Even SOP procedures are outdated; there is very little connection between the local police and power plant. Most simply do not have the standard of software and the channels of communication."


If suspicious activity occurs, such as a helicopter flying over a rural substation, the information is normally sent to an e-mail distribution list. This is a common information-sharing method among power plants today.


"There is no real-time sharing and the data is not shared online. However, information can be shared over a dedicated LAN," Varayur said.


It is important to note that most power plants are privately owned. Law enforcement agencies do not have permission to enter the plant, or access information, if help is not asked for, said Javier Prieto, Security Leader for Spain and Portugal, Honeywell Building Solutions. A balance must be struck between protecting plant data and sharing information with the necessary governmental bodies.


Training
With outdated systems comes an aging workforce. IP providers must train security operators who have worked with traditional systems for years to tackle new systems, IT infrastructure and workstations.


"If you have a sophisticated system, but operators are not able to respond to alerts or detection, you've got a huge problem," Prieto said. "Depending on how much background operators have in IT and computers, we give a full day's training on average."


In some countries, trained operators are transferred every few years, as a security precaution. "Government employees in India cannot remain in one position for more than a handful of years, which means that training new operators is an ongoing process," Varayur said.


Future Systems
Power plants, though conservative, are positioned to build new technologies into existing systems and eventually phase out obsolete equipment. New regulations will demand more integration, as well as efficient information management and sharing procedures. "In the future, a typical site will become more of a sensor fusion platform. We're seeing more requirements for video analytics, audio analytics and fiber-based sensors for perimeters," Lack said. "Because of the long perimeters involved, conventional video surveillance with heavy reliance on high-lux levels for lighting will be superseded by thermal imaging cameras."


Sophisticated management solutions that converge all relevant subsystems — not limited to security — into a cohesive 3-D and GIS-based platform are becoming a reality. "These systems will pull together an entire picture of what is happening and communicate it outbound," Katz said.

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