A game changer in remote support for North American power plants

A game changer in remote support for North American power plants

The new expertise centre in Houston, Texas has been servicing US and Canadian energy sector customers since early March. Many of these customers have been asking how this facility will impact the service they receive.

The new expertise centre in Houston, Texas has been servicing US and Canadian energy sector customers since early March. Many of these customers have been asking how this facility will impact the service they receive.

“The benefits of remote support were already well understood even before the global pandemic further boosted demand,” says Fort Lauderdale-based Sanna Silander-Falk, Director of Business Support at Wärtsilä Energy in Americas. “Houston Expertise Centre takes our remote capabilities in North America to another level by allowing us to gather and analyse data to optimise our customers’ operations.”

Below are Sanna’s responses to some typical questions by customers in the region:

Does the Houston Expertise Centre offer something unique for the North American energy sector?

It is a real game changer for customers in this sector. The centre acts as an operational hub, integrating all available data sources. It is compliant with the requirements defined by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) including critical infrastructure protection protocols.

This secure facility supports our customers around the clock, delivering unparalleled industry guidance, real-time data analytics, and rapid response to plant issues.

Our comprehensive lifecycle solutions include performance and maintenance management and are based on the latest digital technologies and supported by our vast knowledge and expertise in power generation.

What is the value to me as a customer of Wärtsilä’s remote support for power plant and energy storage assets?

In short, remote support enhances reliability and safety of operations. The centre’s technical specialists have expert knowledge of our power plant and energy storage technologies - including our sophisticated GEMS digital energy platform », which enables us to optimise customers’ power systems.Our predictive maintenance tool Expert Insight » uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence models and advanced rule-based diagnostics to detect minor problems and ensure they are addressed before they become major issues.

Our engineers can provide corrective action steps and improvement evaluations with fact-based decision-making based on historical data made available through multiple tools.

These tools enable our engineers to assess key performance indicators such as heat rate, spark plug health, energy reliability, turbocharger bearing pressures, turbocharger run hours, and fluid quality.

 Our experts can open a real-time, cybersecure remote connection to your installation’s operator interface through a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) access. This enables collaboration via screensharing and chat functions, meaning customer’s experts won’t be alone if the unexpected happens

The customer data viewed through this process contributes to fact-based decision making and improved evaluations, providing the customer significant value as they can optimise their asset operations and maximise uptime based on the expert advice and recommendations.

What is the significance of the Centre’s NERC-compliant cybersecurity and Wärtsilä’s internal compliance protocol?

To remotely connect to assets within the US bulk electric system we were required to set up an internal compliance program (ICP) with cyber security policies, incident management processes, and dedicated personnel.

This ensures that appropriate information and evidence is stored to demonstrate that controls are in place and executed, thus acting as an evidence trail for NERC compliance audits. To increase security in the expertise center we decided to also implement a physical safety perimeter and electronic safety protocols.

We not only meet customer and regulatory requirements; our remote support exceeds the certification required by the NERC to match customers’ compliance practices.

What services does Wärtsilä’s Expertise Centre provide to customers?

As well as improving customer plant performance, the Houston Expertise Centre reduces the need for on-site visits by field service engineers to resolve issues. This increases plant availability and reduces travel costs. The advanced planning supported by the centre’s remote access capabilities enables diagnostics, troubleshooting, and parts ordering ahead of site visits.

Services and support from expertise centres can be broadly divided into three elements:

  • Performance management - measures and monitors fuel efficiency, offering optimisation advice to ensure that the heat rate is kept at an optimal level
  • Operational support - provides expert advice and guidance on technical issues related to site operations
  • Maintenance management and analytics - ensures that all technical, administrative and managerial actions required for preventive maintenance are planned and communicated well before activities are carried out

Wärtsilä has expertise centres around the world. Do you have evidence about the value of remote support provided by them?

Last year, 96% of incoming support cases from the more than 250 power plants we support globally were successfully solved remotely from our six Expertise Centres strategically located around the world. The effectiveness of this approach can be measured by the fact that of the support cases processed in 2021, 91% were resolved the same day they were received.


Interested in learning more? We have produced a series of videos further explaining Wärtsilä’s Lifecycle Solutions and remote support:

Preventative maintenance planning

Predictive and maintenance support

Customer support

Maintenance agreements

Wärtsilä Expertise Centre real time support Southeast Africa case

Wärtsilä Houston Expertise Centre

Written by
Paul Golden