Department of Energy uses virtual reality to develop new power plant technology

Virtual realty training system and process simulation from Invensys will support creation of a virtual plant to analyze process, train operators.


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will use EyeSim from Invensys Operations Management as the centerpiece of a new state-of-the-art training center to assist in the development of new generation zero-emission integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plants with carbon capture.

The IGCC training center is part of the DOE's initiative to develop new clean-coal power plants that burn fuel more efficiently to produce environmentally friendly electric power. Invensys will provide a full-scope, high-fidelity, real-time dynamic simulator for a generic IGCC plant with carbon capture. The DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) will operate the simulator at both its Dynamic Simulator Research and Training Center in Morgantown, WV and at a satellite location at West Virginia University's National Research Center for Coal and Energy.

In November 2008, Invensys announced that it had been awarded a contract by the DOE to simulate the IGCC process using its SimSci-Esscor Dynsim process modeling software. The most recent contract adds a 3-D virtual reality experience to that simulation.
"Using the combined solution capabilities of our SimSci-Esscor Dynsim and EyeSim technologies , we will build a high-fidelity model of a generic coal-fired IGCC power plant that designers and operators can interact with in real-time," said Maurizio Rovaglio, Ph.D. and head of innovation and emerging technologies for Invensys Operations Management . "While similar to an immersive 3-D video game, this simulation is derived from powerful software that exactly models the physics of the plant's operations, rather than being based on an artistic rendering." ( Read an earlier article on this virtual plant technology .)

Wearing a stereoscopic headset, trainees enter the immersive environment and move freely throughout the facility, seeing exactly what they would see if they were in an actual plant. The walkthrough is highly realistic because the software renders the virtual environment at 60 frames per second, significantly faster than what can be achieved by traditional, non real-time rendering. Moreover, EyeSim augmented reality merges virtual plant imagery with data screens from asset management or other application software to provide additional detail on technology or procedures that can significantly enhance the overall training experience.

The DOE will use these simulations in demonstration, education, and training services, including IGCC plant operation and control demonstrations, technology familiarization, and hands-on computer-based training. In addition to training and plant design functions, the NETL and its research and development partners will use the simulator to showcase clean coal technology as a technically feasible way to support future electrical generation demand without emitting environmental pollutants or greenhouse gases.

"The work that NETL is doing is a great example of how advanced simulation technologies can be applied to help bring about a more sustainable future, and we are pleased that the DOE has selected us to participate in this important project," says Rovaglio.


-Edited by Peter Welander, process industries editor,
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