Troubleshooting From Mt. Chirripo

Biomass Magazine Executive Editor Tim Portz discusses the January issue of the magazine, which digs into plant operations and maintenance, and efficient data capture and transmission.
By Tim Portz | December 29, 2013

Earlier this year, from Central America's Mt. Chirripo, Koda Energy plant manager (and Biomass Magazine editorial board member) Stacy Cook performed extensive troubleshooting on Koda Energy’s Shakopee, Minn.-based combined-heat-and-power plant with a cell phone connected to a radio-based internet signal. His story, outlined in Anna Simet’s page-17 feature “Wireless Revolution, ” is a telling snapshot of biomass energy operations in our wireless and digital era.

This issue of Biomass Magazine digs into plant operations and maintenance, and efficient data capture and transmission emerges as a vital theme in nearly every article. Whether it be temperature monitoring in various areas of a biomass-fired kiln or the rate of slagging inside - a biomass-powered boiler, owners and operators are hungry for access to real-time operational data, and Web-enabled access is practically a must. 

In his page 27 column “Managing, Operating Multisubstrate Biogas Facilities, ” Anthony Leske of Himark Biogas reminds us of the critical nature in gathering real-time operational data, noting that “more than 40 percent of biogas plant failures occur after startup and are due to monitoring and control errors.” Of course, merely capturing and moving this operational data around, even in a wireless fashion, to the most remote corners of the world, doesn’t assure that a digester will operate at peak efficiency, that consistent temperatures are maintained throughout a kiln, or an area of a boiler with a high rate of slagging is identified for maintenance at the right time. All of the data in the world can do nothing without a human being interpreting it. 

As to data interpreters, staff writer Chris Hanson’s page-28 story, “Wanted: Digester Technicians,” will catch you up on a trend we have been following  intently the past three years. Hanson offers an exciting look at the ways in which colleges are pairing with digester builders to develop curriculums that will deliver qualified and well-trained professionals to the marketplace in time to operate and maintain a growing fleet of digesters.

This issue asserts that operational data is the lifeblood of any operations and maintenance program. The data itself hasn’t necessarily changed; rather, the exciting changes are occurring in its method of capture and transmission. The one constant is that, ultimately, a human being has to make a decision about the data they’ve gathered, no matter where they are.

Author: Tim Portz
Vice President of Content & Executive Editor