In recent years, the implementation of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) networks has provided multiple benefits to gencos such as better inventory management, monitoring and optimisation of processes, streamlining of coal supply and real-time data management for power plants. However, challenges like cybersecurity, protection of critical infrastructure while integrating IT with OT, and availability of skilled manpower for the management of control systems still obstruct IT project implementation processes.
Power Line presents the views of industry experts regarding IT and OT initiatives, major challenges and future projects…
Which are the key areas that have seen IT and OT adoption by the company recently?
We are focusing on integrating various processes with the systems, applications and products (SAP) technology. For example, the wagon triple weighbridge has been integrated with the SAP module. There has been integration of the Freight Operations Information System with SAP. The biometric attendance system has also been integrated and the visitor management module is a part of it.
In the generation control room data on approximately 150 parameters is continuously generated and studied to forecast the demand and prepare future plans. The power purchase cost and merit order despatch (MOD) modules in the SAP application assist in the performance optimisation of plants and MOD assessment respectively. The SAP application also has an availability-based tariffs (ABT) module for calculating ABT.
Traditionally, the OT network remains isolated from the IT network due to the difference in their communication protocol and safety of critical infrastructure. Realising the advantages of the marriage of these two networks, we carried out a detailed risk assessment of the OT supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) network and developed a security architecture around it to ensure that when IT and OT networks join, the critical infrastructure is protected. We then mined the data generated by many components of the SCADA system into various business dashboards. These have become real-time decision-making tools to augment productivity.
CLP India has been focusing on the integration of enterprise IT and OT for a couple of years now. We have implemented the RenewableNet – a unique solution that supports the monitoring and optimising operations of around 800 MW of renewables business. This project is aimed at creating a platform for the renewables business, in which data can be gathered and the analytics can be used for improving wind generation. Be it conceptualising the requirements, efforts to carry out various tests, using internal capabilities to deliver, sound project governance, stakeholder engagement or seeking management support, our joint project team worked cohesively to stay on the top of these key factors, ensuring the project’s successful completion. The project also won the international CIO 100 award 2016.
We have established a monitoring centre at our corporate head office in Mumbai to monitor SCADA data from all wind farms and thermal plants.
- Centralised financial accounting, payroll and the material management system have been implemented in the organisation across all project sites in India and also in two of SJVN’s subsidiaries in Nepal and Buxar (Bihar). The system aids in reducing manual work and increases automation and consolidation of financial figures across the organisation and also manages day-to-day financial transactions centrally from the corporate office.
- MPLS and video conferencing: While SJVN already has its multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network in Delhi, Shimla, Rampur (Rampur Hydropower Stations [RHPS]) and Jharki (Nathpa Jharki Hydrpower Stations [NJHPS]), it was recently extended to our thermal power plant site in Patna, and to Dehradun, for projects in Uttarakhand. Videoconferencing is regularly conducted among these locations and with the Ministry of Power, which reduces boarding and lodging expenses, and improves the clarity and speed of communication.
- The optical ground wire network has been created between NJHPS and RHPS for operation of these projects in tandem and hotline communication. Nathpa, the dam site of NJHPS, is also connected to the powerhouse overleased line.
- VoIP: Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) has been implemented at SJVN’s new office complex in Shanan, Shimla, and between RHPS and NJHPS using VPN tunnels.
What have been the noteworthy learnings and experiences?
The generation control room faced some issues during operations. While rigorous data analysis can be carried out at the control room, implementation based on the analysis hasn’t been up to the mark. There are also concerns regarding the security of the system, which makes the entire IT department vulnerable. Moreover, connectivity between locations with respect to seamless data exchange is not as good as it should be and needs to be improved.
While the CIO team specialised in IT protocols, the control and instrumentation (C&I) team had expertise in OT protocols. So far, both teams used to manage their networks in silo. The most significant experience was the opportunity of looking into each other’s area of expertise and designing an architecture that is most suitable for both networks with focus on the protection of critical infrastructure.
The key challenges for the integration of IT and OT are extracting the source data from SCADA, network issues for transmitting the data from a remote location to the central location, structuring the parameters into a common format and analysing them. The other key challenges relate to technological compatibility, cyber security for the plant control system, availability of the right skills to integrate IT and OT systems and managing higher user expectations on mobility.
Vulnerability assessment, an e-learning portal, newsletters, training sessions, etc. have been initiated to address cybersecurity. Continuous process improvement and skills upgrade are two other core areas that we believe will help us address these challenges effectively.
In big infrastructure projects, IT needs should be identified separately and people with core competence in IT should be involved from the very beginning in order to ensure their smooth completion.
What are some of the new IT initiatives that might be undertaken?
One of the key areas that we are working on is the integration of IT and OT. For example, in order to improve data analysis, the generation control room parameters would be integrated with the SAP module. Mahagenco is planning to obtain ISO 27001 certification for strengthening cybersecurity and reducing risks to the IT ecosystem. Also, we are working to make the communication systems TCP/IP based as against the current remote terminal unit-based communication system. Payment systems will also be integrated with the SAP module along with auto generation of pay slips.
We plan to focus on mining OT data for analysing various dynamic parameters that will help us predict possible faults/ disruptions and move towards predictive maintenance from reactive maintenance. This can reduce forced and window-of-maintenance shutdown, resulting in increased productivity.
We are exploring solutions to streamline the coal supply chain, and coal and ash inventory management. Various initiatives are ongoing under the “Work Smart Program: Let’s Simplify IT” that addresses mobility, security, productivity and responsibility issues. Cloud-based solutions are also being explored to optimise the overall IT cost of ownership. The IT team envisages to adding value to the focus, delivery and growth of CLP India’s operations by recommending and establishing the “Purpose to Fit Business” technology. It aims to manage IT as a responsible service function, demonstrating accountability and innovation, that meets business expectations and maintains customer focus in the delivery of IT services. Besides, optimisation of IT costs and compliance with organisational governance and standards are other focus areas.
- ERP: Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is at the tendering stage and would be available in about a year or so, which will definitely strengthen the capabilities of SJVN and improve efficiency, transparency and speed of communication in the company.
- Data-centre (DC): An in-house DC is being planned to cater to the needs of ERP as well as various other IT needs of the company.
- Building management system (BMS): Access control, a firefighting system, biometrics, a centralised public address system, etc. are being planned under the BMS for SJVN’s new office complex in Shanan, Shimla.