Information and Control Systems

This group manages the distributed control system and the information technology infrastructure for the Utilities Department.

The distributed control system (DCS) covers utility operations on the Greater Campus Area (GCA). Extending from the heating plant through the service corridor to the cooling plant, the DCS consists of over 4,000 tags that are monitored and/or controlled. The process data from the DCS is integrated into an OSIsoft Process Information Server.

The initial DCS was originally installed in 1983. It has recently been upgraded to an Emerson Process Management DeltaV system. With four control centres at the cooling plant, cooling plant on campus, heating plant, and electrical shop, the DCS system is totally integrated, providing accurate and timely information on all of the utility operations. A fifth monitoring and backup centre is available in a facility where senior management from the Utilities Department is based and is remote from the plants. This also provides a backup control centre in case of plant emergency.

The DCS and PI Server together enable data gathering, analysis and report generation to occur in an efficient and timely manner. The DCS is programmed to optimize plant operating strategies in order to minimize production costs. The ready availability of data is essential in determining and controlling system loads for electricity, natural gas, chilled water, steam and domestic water. The ability to access this information is a key determinant in managing and controlling utility costs, and complying with rigorous regulatory reporting required by provincial and federal government agencies.

The utility billing system was upgraded to a NorthStar system, going live in 2010. Data from the PI Server is a key input into the monthly settlement process required for preparing utility invoices.

In addition to the DCS, there are a couple of small stand-alone systems that provide specialized control and communication capabilities. This includes steam turbine generator 2 which is controlled through a PCS7 control system. Communications to the DCS is through hardwired signals and through an Object Linking and Embedding for Process Control, or OPC interface to the PI Server. The other stand-alone system is a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Remote Terminal Unit (SCADA RTU) in the heating plant which is used to share the on-site generation and main power feeder status with the power distributor to the GCA and the Alberta Electric System Operator through hardwired signals to the DCS. This data sharing increases safety, reliability and allows access to the power market for asset optimization.

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