OSIsoft Energy Software Saves Companies Millions

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OSIsoft, based in San Leandro, California, has been in the software business since 1980 and currently has over 1,000 employees. It makes products for operational intelligence and real-time data infrastructure. Mike Kanellos, Head of Corporate Communications and Technology, answered some questions for CleanTechnica.


1. When you say you have 450+ interfaces, what does that mean exactly?

By interfaces we mean sensor and equipment interfaces, i.e. the software/hardware specifications that determine the overall parameters of data (language, frequency of updates etc.) used by a piece of equipment. A huge number of building automation systems for instance, rely on BACnet. A good portion of industrial sensors use CANbus. And then there are the ones that are developed by individual manufacturers like ABB, Honeywell or GE. A broad portfolio is important because industrial sites tend to be heterogeneous. A single manufacturer might have systems from Siemens and Johnson Controls doing the same job in different plants or even the same plant. You’ll also see equipment that is a few months old and things that are decades old (The average age of a transformer on the U.S. grid is 40, according to the DOE.)

Having a large library of interfaces gives our customers the ability to access and use as much of their data as possible. We have some customers, like E.ON, using the PI System to compare wind turbine performance. Others (ADM) are using the system to study thousands of combinations of variables to root out the cause of premature equipment failures. You never know what parameters you’re going to need.

2. Are they customizable?

The interfaces themselves are set by manufacturers or standards bodies so they can’t be customized, but how customers deploy them is quite customized. Every customer will invariably have a different equipment footprint and the problems they want to solve vary across the board.

3. Who are your core clients related to energy, and what does your software do for them?

Our software is employed fairly extensively in both the power industry and oil/gas. Over 1,000 utilities and grid operators including Exelon, PG&E, Duke Energy, Luminant, Vattenfall, Entergy, Sempra, PSE&G, Itaipu, and PJM have incorporated PI into their operations. Our software is used in every nuclear power plant in the US. We’re inside demand response systems. And if you check out the ‘duck curve’ at Cal ISO, that’s our software serving up the data on energy demand and consumption.

In oil and gas, we work with Saudi Aramco, Exxon, Chevron, Shell, Columbia Pipeline Group, Pemex, Petrobras and others. 95% of the top companies in the industries use the PI System.

We’re also pretty extensively used in the industries that consume large amounts of power like metals and mining, pulp and paper, food production, chemical manufacturing, and pharmaceuticals. In these industries, small differences go a long way. Cascades Inc., the paper manufacturer, uses the PI System as part of its effort to cut power by 2% per year. Its annual power budget is $350 million.

What does your software do for them?

• Situational awareness. The PI System is akin to an EKG for industry. You can see everything going on at once. If there is an outage, the PI System can pinpoint in real-time what systems aren’t responding. Repair crews can then be sent directly to where they can help the most.

• Once you have situational awareness, you can move onto things like preventative maintenance and optimization. Dong Energy is using the PI System to detect possible equipment failures early: simply by cutting annual offshore turbine checkups from four a year to two could save 20 million Euros a year.

• Then there are people using the PI System to redesign their basic processes and operations. Yorkshire Water in the UK, for instance, is using the PI System to save 900,000 pounds sterling a year in energy costs and 100,000 pounds a year in reduced chemicals by fine-tuning its basic operations. Alcoa uses the PI System to reduce peak power. In the first four months, it saved $700,000 at one plant and has saved millions since. Energy is approximately 40% of the cost of producing aluminum.

What makes the software effective is that we can take on the biggest jobs in IoT. Some of our customers collectively track millions of data streams simultaneously. Data updates also come in at a rapid fire pace: Compressor Controls Corp., one customer, has a vibration analysis tool that uses 400,000 new “events” per second: the PI System feeds that funnel. A technology like Hadoop is good for storing data but not delivering in a way that makes sense at this pace.

4. How does your software increase energy efficiency?

What the PI System does is give people a live, holistic view of their operations so they can act. Most industrial scale companies are balancing a number of objectives. Safety is the paramount concern for most of them. Then comes productivity. Energy efficiency is important, but it can’t impinge on the first two.

IBM, for instance, uses the PI System in its Burlington, VT, chip fabrication facility. It’s state of the art. IBM nonetheless was able to cut water vapor consumption by $6 million a year: production went up by 30% but IBM was able to cut water by 27% by studying the data it was getting from the PI System. In turn, that cut energy by $4 million because IBM didn’t have to purify as much water.

In the past several years, our software has branched out to manage energy for non-industrial uses like data centers and large buildings or campuses. The San Diego Padres reduced power by $238,000 in 88 home games by doing things like turning off pizza ovens after games in 2015.The team has a current goal of cutting its carbon footprint in half over five years.

5. How many utilities use your software and what are some accomplishments, in terms of dollars saved?

Over 1,000. I listed some above and there are some wind examples coming below. Some additional gems:

• Columbia Pipeline has saved around $9.8 million since 2006 in avoiding pipeline outages. During the Polar Vortex of 2014, it was able to reorganize deliveries to avoid disruptions.
• Xcel Energy says it has saved $46 million over the last six years by using the PI System to improve its wind forecasts and thereby reduce natural gas consumption.
• DTE Energy was able to avoid approximately $10 million worth of fines from its grid operator by using the PI System to stem potential violations.
• Massachusetts Water Resource Authority cut power costs by $14 million a year.
• And here is one of those examples of someone following up on utility incentives. Kellogg’s saved $3.3 million a year in energy in Battle Creek. Because the PI System documented the savings, they qualified for $1.8 million in rebates.

6. Does your software work with renewable electricity sources like solar and wind?
What about energy storage? Do you have customers currently using it in relation to these technologies?

Yes to all of the above. Renewables are a big focus for us. The transmission and distribution grids weren’t developed to accommodate intermittent renewable resources. By capturing and serving up real-time data, we’re helping people reduce the impact so renewables can be adopted more rapidly and extensively.

Wind customers include Juwi, Luminant, Iberdrola, Dong, and Xcel.

In solar, APS, the largest utility in Arizona, uses the PI System to monitor 170 MW of solar plants. Enphase also uses the PI System to monitor its assets. SunPower uses it inside its factories: in a single factory SunPower will track 27,000 data streams to ensure quality and productivity. UCSD uses the PI System on its microgrid to manage solar.

In storage, we work with a large fuel cell maker, among others. In some ways, the PI System cuts the cost of storage because it can minimize the impact of intermittency. With the PI System, you can reduce the size of a storage system and have the same results.

7. Do you have an estimate for how much utilities using your software have saved? And over what time period?

I just don’t have the data for that, but it’s huge. For the renewable utilities like E.ON, we are helping them harvest and deliver more wind and solar, cutting gas costs. Energy efficiency is also one of the big advantages for manufacturers, refineries and other end users. The PI System also cuts embedded energy by replacing capital improvements with supply chain efficiencies. ArcelorMittal used the PI System to expand production at an iron mine in Canada. Otherwise, they would have had to dig up a new port.

8. If it does work with solar and/or wind, can you provide some examples demonstrating how it works?
Sure. In the case of APS, for instance, the PI System serves up data on power production and equipment health in real-time at the panel level. If a panel isn’t working as it is supposed to, APS knows right away. That data collected over time then gives them better insight into how different solar plants operate — what should you expect from a rooftop in Phoenix versus one in Tucson? What parts of the state tend to need the most maintenance — that will help when building newer plants.

E.ON uses the PI System to compare the output of turbines. It has found that new turbines can generate 15 to 30% more power at similar wind conditions. That can be used to justify upgrades. Iberdrola generated 50 gigawatt hours worth of power in a single month by using PI data to more tightly control its curtailment. (Heck, Xcel managed to power all of Colorado with 50% wind during a single day in October through the more precision forecasts made possible through the PI System.)

9. How did your system help Halifax Water, Power and Utilities save C$600,000 annually?
It gave them real-time water pressure and water flow, which in turn allowed them to pinpoint the location of leaks. Plugging the leaks let Halifax recover 40 million liters of treated water a day.

10. You have many international customers. What are some new projects you have lined up?
We just launched a trial with the State Grid of China to establish data management standards for smart grid projects. SCG covers 88% of China. We also have a trial underway with China Southern Electric Grid, which oversees the grid in the remaining 12%. Some other projects:

Maynilad, the water company for Manila, uses the PI System. Since using it, it has been able to increase the number of people it serves from 6 million to 9 million and increase the number of those getting adequate pressure from around 50% to over 97%.

Others: British Gas, Korea Hydro. RWE (UK), Copel (Brazil), Ministry of Energy in Turkey.

Image Credit: OSIsoft

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Jake Richardson

Hello, I have been writing online for some time, and enjoy the outdoors. If you like, you can follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JakeRsol

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