3D manufacturing, advanced sensors, big data, the industrial Internet, smart grid, and several other new trends will change the way we do engineering and product development in the future. In the center of all these trends is the need to simulate the different engineering processes involved—including process scenarios, fault conditions, failure events, and others—so that we can assess product integrity at the design stages rather than on the shop floor or in front of the customer.
The extent of simulation in our day-to-day engineering has increased several-fold thanks to advances in computing infrastructure. The level of simulation done today could not have been imagined some years back. Today, we simulate the state of the grid in real time to understand any perturbations that could transform into major grid instability. We are also using advanced system-level simulation across multiple scenarios to determine the performance of wind turbines on a wind farm to optimize parameters and take appropriate design or control action. Simulation also enhances our ability to support the customer by testing actual scenarios in our labs and providing corrective action.
Simulation fidelity, which is influenced by a couple of factors, is critical. One important factor is the functions that used to represent the system being simulated; the more closely they simulate the physics, the more confidence we have in the simulation. Fidelity also depends on the level of computing infrastructure available to perform the simulation. High-fidelity simulation calls for more accurate representation of the physics and an associated high-end computing infrastructure.
Another important aspect is the user experience around the simulation process. In the energy industry, we use plant-level simulators that represent the control systems for the entire plant to look at all possible failure scenarios and address them before the final application software is dispatched to the customer. Operator training simulators are also available to train plant operators in efficient and safe plant operation. Both of these types of simulators need to provide a user-friendly interface in terms of application being simulated. Connected with this is the need to have both general and specific functions in the simulator software. General functions, like control system functions, act as building blocks for the total system, whereas specific application functions are used for building simulations targeting a specific process.
In contract to decades past, different forms of energy need to coexist in the grid today, necessitating the ability to predict the reliability and availability of the total power system. Complex power systems involving coal, gas, and renewables—which vary in their ability to deliver continuous power—are a significant challenge to simulate. Future systems will continue to complex; simulation software needs to be able to model such complex systems of systems with high fidelity and accuracy.
In summary, simulation is a critical part of the design process in the energy industry; it is more a necessity than a choice. Without simulation, we can neither understand the complex systems of systems and components of the system very well nor provide robust solutions to the toughest challenges of the energy industry.
Mariasundaram is the India engineering leader for GE Energy Management and the engineering site leader for GE Hyderabad Technology Center (HTC), which hosts the engineering teams for GE Power and Water (P&W), GE Oil and Gas (O&G), and GE Energy Management (EM). Under his leadership, the team of more than 700 engineers works on a variety of technologies across the entire energy value chain from exploration to utilization of energy across the three major business verticals, namely P&W, O&G, and EM. As the engineering site leader, he is involved in driving operational leadership and engineering excellence across the site in the different areas the team is engaged in, including O&G, power generation controls, gas engines, renewables, digital energy, industrial solutions, sensing, and product services. The Hyderabad site is a key engineering site for these businesses in terms of number of engineers and plays an important role in driving innovation with close to 150 patents in the last 3+ years. Prior to this, Mariasundaram held roles as the operations manager for Energy Engineering in Bangalore, CoE Leader for Gas Turbines, and Master Black Belt. He started his GE career in Aviation as a technical leader in the Rotating Parts division. He has been with GE for more than 13 years; prior to that, he had stints at BHEL and TVS Sundaram Clayton.
Mariasundaram has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Guindy Engineering College, Chennai, and a master’s degree from NIT, Tiruchy. Special interests include learning about emerging technologies such as smart grid, advanced controls technologies, gas turbines for power generation and aircraft engines, and solar power. He has been active in CII and other forums and has presented on topics related to energy efficiency and smart grid technologies and solutions. He has been a member of the ASME since 2000 and actively follows IGTI activities.