Automation upgrade ensures secure reserve energy

Fingrid Tahkoluoto upgraded their Valmet DNA automation system

High cybersecurity, virtual servers and a web-based Valmet DNA User Interface enable Fingrid, Finland’s transmission system operator, to reliably start up and operate its Tahkoluoto and Vaskiluoto reserve power plants in times of grid disturbances.

When you operate in a critical sector and are responsible for the balance of a national power system, plant automation has to feature both high availability and extreme cybersecurity. Owned by the Finnish state and Finnish pension insurance companies, Fingrid does not produce electricity itself, but can temporarily generate power with its reserve power plants in the event of disturbances.

Two of these reserve power plants, Tahkoluoto in Pori and Vaskiluoto in Vaasa, both on the country’s western coast, have been running with Valmet’s automation since the early 2000s. In 2010, the systems were upgraded to the latest version of Valmet DNA.

“Together with Valmet, we continually make lifecycle plans for our automation systems. The target is to be able to maintain our existing systems in the best and most cost-efficient way while taking into account the available spare parts, know-how and upkeep services for the products that we have,” says Urpo Jaakkola, Automation Expert at Fingrid.

Tahkoluoto has two 26 MW gas turbines, while Vaskiluoto has one 26 MW gas turbine. Every six weeks, the plants are started and run for half an hour at least to check their operation through a remote connection from Fingrid’s main control room in Helsinki.

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Valmet’s Application Specialist Markus Koivumäki knows the automation system at the Tahkoluoto reserve power plant inside out, as he was also involved in the 2010 upgrade.  

High cybersecurity and virtual servers

The latest projects with Valmet in 2020 aimed at improving cybersecurity, as new malware and advanced cyberthreats are increasing all the time. Jaakkola continues: “Earlier, plant automation systems were separate islands, but today they use the same components and services as ICT systems in general. This means that automation systems today face with the same kind of threats as other information systems with remote connections. As an actor responsible for the critical security of supply, we need to keep our systems up to date to ensure that no outsiders can enter them and cause any threat to us.”

To ensure high cybersecurity, Valmet’s delivery included antivirus software and security patch management. Security updates are downloaded via the Valmet Industrial Internet (VII) server from Valmet Performance Center.

Another target was to make full use of modern virtual platforms. Instead of real physical servers, virtual ones make it possible to reduce the number of physical computers and additionally provide a much more fault-tolerant and stable environment for critical applications. “Virtualization adds to hardware flexibility and cost efficiency as well as improves system availability, reliability and cybersecurity,” Jaakkola says. “After all, high system reliability is a top priority at our reserve plants.”

After all, high system reliability is a top priority at our reserve plants.

A winner: Valmet DNA User Interface

The user interfaces of the existing Valmet DNA automation systems at both plants were upgraded to a new web-based Valmet DNA User Interface. This innovative solution extends the use of the automation system beyond the walls of the control room – to wherever you need to use it.

For example, Urpo Jaakkola is now able to access the automation systems at Tahkoluoto and Vaskiluoto through a secure web-based connection from Fingrid’s head office in Helsinki. On his personalized system displays, he can easily see the technical and condition monitoring data relevant to his job position. “I find the user interface modern, easy to use and optimized for browser use. I can work with the system conveniently, even from home, on any mobile device.”

I find the user interface modern, easy to use and optimized for browser use. I can work with the system conveniently, even from home, on any mobile device.

Valmet DNA User Interface delivers relevant information in visual, well-structured, easy-to-understand dashboards, process and sub-process views. It concentrates on making the most meaningful information available to all process automation users according to their roles, regardless of their location.

Cybersecurity pops up again when Jaakkola lists the many benefits of the new user interface. “It is no longer necessary to install any software into computers, as all data can be accessed through the web browser. All in all, I have found the new interface and its performance to be very good.”

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It took Ari Järvimäki only a few days to learn to use the new interface. He appreciates the page hierarchy, trends and other valuable information in the faceplates, as well as the tile-based page scalability.

A tablet makes work much easier

At both plants, the main users of Valmet DNA User Interface are Maintenance Engineers Mika Parviainen and Ari Järvimäki, both employed by Elcoline, the company in charge of plant operation and maintenance. They usually spend one or two days per week at each plant.

“It took us only a few days to learn to use the new interface. Especially the search and trend tools have improved a lot in the new version,” Järvimäki points out. Parviainen particularly enjoys the page hierarchy, trends and other valuable information in the faceplates, as well as page scalability.

“The best part in the upgraded system is the tablet. For example, if I need to go to the turbines to do something, I grab it along and am able to monitor the process on site. Earlier, one of us went into the field to do something to the process and then called the other one in the control room by phone or walkie-talkie to inquire what automation system impacts were visible. The tablet makes our work much easier,” Järvimäki adds.

Jaakkola foresees automation systems going in the direction where home computers have gone – instead of large table computers, tablets are gaining popularity. “Being able to see the process status in the field all the time improves safety and makes maintenance and tuning easier. The tablet was not originally in our order scope, but we felt it was a good new service from Valmet.”

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The main users of Valmet DNA User InterfaceMika Parviainen (left) and Ari Järvimäki, find the tablet especially useful in monitoring the process on site. “Earlier, one of us went to the field to do something to the process and then called the other one in the control room by phone or walkie-talkie to inquire what automation system impacts were visible. The tablet makes our work much easier.” 

Smooth cooperation, quick response

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the identical automation upgrades were carried out successfully, making full use of remote connections. Vaskiluoto was finished in June and Tahkoluoto in September 2020.

Project management was excellent. Also, maintaining the system has been at a high level. Whenever we have needed support, our problems have been solved quickly.

“Cooperation with Valmet was smooth. Most of the Valmet staff had been involved in the 2010 upgrade, so they knew our plants as well as our needs and restrictions as a public actor,” says Jaakkola. “Project management was excellent. Also, maintaining the system has been at a high level. Whenever we have needed support, our problems have been solved quickly.”

Upgrades and lifecycle services

Lifecycle planning and implementation of the agreed upgrades to improve reliability and performance.

Valmet DNA User Interface

Valmet DNA UI is a web-based user interface for the DNA distributed control system (DCS). It concentrates on making the most meaningful information available to all process control users according to their roles, regardless of their location.