Increasing the profitability of CHP plants by 1-2% using mathematical optimization

The complexity of operating a CHP plant is so great that its operators select good but not optimal operating parameters. We show that an increase of about 1-2% in profitability is possible by using mathematical optimization to compute the optimal set point values as a reaction to changing conditions. The changes affect only the operation of the plant and no physical changes or capital expenditure is required.

This has been practically demonstrated in several plants in Europe, including CHP plants which provide energy for district heating; those which supply steam to industrial plants and to all-electric power plants.

Any plant’s profitability comes from a large number of small-scale operational decisions made by several tens of individuals. While many smaller processes are automated using various technologies, the overall process is largely controlled by human operators. Therefore, the maximum possible profitability depends partially on the decisions, knowledge and experience of the operators. There are two main challenges for them.

Article published in: FuturENERGY May 2014