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Bill Maddock, Director of Subsea Systems Institute

UH Energy Launches the Energy Plant Operations Innovation Challenge

By Valeria Dominguez

Along the Gulf Coast, hundreds of chemical, petrochemical, refinery and power plants are operating. These plants were designed decades ago and face vulnerability to extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes and heavy rainfall. Today, there is a need for creative innovation due to the rapid advancement of today’s technology and analytical tools. What can we do to make energy plants more resistant to extreme weather? How can plant personnel improve operations with minimal loss?

To gain innovative answers to some of these questions, UH Energy has launched the Energy Plan Operations Innovation Challenge.

Participants will compete by evaluating the current state of the energy plant industry. Students can use research to provide innovation solutions and compete for a prize of up to $2000. Challengers have the opportunity to provide assessments of how extreme weather impacts these facilities. For example; looking at the frequency of extreme weather events through weather data, competitors can identify potential failures and risks in plants. As Houston was faced with Hurricane Harvey in the Summer of 2017, assessing the risk of these plants face is now more important than ever.  

According to the contest guidelines, students should choose 1-2 specific examples of scenarios plants face and perform cost/benefit of mitigation measures. For example; avoiding water ingress, supply chain disruptions, communication with S-O-A technology and contract losses. Participants will submit a written plan and prepare a presentation as a proposal asking for an investment towards recommended infrastructure and other improvements that would enhance operations for a plant in extreme weather conditions.

DNV-GL, a quality assurance and risk management company, is the sponsor of the competition and the source of the background data. Advice from DNV-GL will be provided to each participating team. Teams for the challenge can consist of up to 5 students from any major at UH. Each team will be supervised by two UH faculty and staff members.

UH Energy states that the team’s focus should be on a conceptual design to represent modifications that can be made towards a plant. Each team will submit a written proposal to a team of judges and make a 30 minute presentation on their plant proposal.

First, Second and Third Place prizes will be awarded cash prizes of $6000, $4000 or $2000. For more information on the Energy Plant Operations Innovation Challenge, visit the UH Energy website. For students passionate about innovating the future of energy, this is worth entering.  For more information about the Energy Plant Operations Innovation Challenge, please contact Murthy Divakaruni at sdivakar@Central.UH.EDU.