Reliability in PE Power Exam

Consider a bustling power generation plant where massive turbines silently rotate, transformers hum with purpose, and a vast network of transmission lines stretches as far as the eye can see.

Within this complex web of power, reliability emerges as the driving force that safeguards against unexpected failures, optimizes efficiency, and ensures an uninterrupted electricity supply to countless homes, industries, and communities.

This blog series will explore the exciting concept of reliability in the PE power exam. We will discuss the topic along all horizontal and vertical depths to equip your knowledge with mandatory concepts, techniques, and real-world applications, all tailored specifically to the PE Power Exam.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional seeking to expand your knowledge or an aspiring power engineer aiming to master the concept of reliability in the PE Power exam, this blog will serve as a fundamental source for your knowledge base. Let’s dive deep into the details.

Importance of Reliability in Power Engineering

Importance of Reliability in Power Engineering

The implications drive the importance of Reliability in the PE power exam and use cases of the concept in the real world of power engineering. Look at the following vital use cases:

  • Reliability is crucial in power engineering as it ensures the continuous and uninterrupted supply of electricity to end-users, minimizing downtime and disruptions in critical sectors such as healthcare, manufacturing, and infrastructure. It further helps electrical engineers and decision makers to enhance engineering economics policies to achieve better ROI for their production.
  • Reliability analysis allows power engineers to identify potential failure modes, assess their impact on system performance, and design appropriate preventive and corrective measures to mitigate risks and enhance overall system reliability.
  • Accurate reliability assessments help optimize maintenance strategies, ensuring that maintenance activities are targeted, efficient, and cost-effective, leading to increased operational efficiency and reduced downtime.
  • Reliability considerations are vital in designing and selecting power system components, including generators, transformers, circuit breakers, and protective devices. Reliability analysis guides engineers in choosing components with appropriate failure rates, ensuring long-term system reliability and minimizing the likelihood of catastrophic failures.
  • Reliability engineering plays a critical role in the planning and operation of power systems. By evaluating system reliability metrics such as loss of load probability (LOLP), loss of load expectation (LOLE), and reliability indices (e.g., SAIDI, SAIFI), power engineers can assess system performance, identify potential bottlenecks, and optimize system design and operation for maximum reliability.

Probability Concepts

The two core probability and statistics concepts in the subject area of reliability in the PE power exam are probability distribution function and cumulative probability distribution.

1. Probability Distribution Function

A probability distribution function (PDF) represents the likelihood of different outcomes or events. It describes the probabilities associated with various levels of reliability or failure rates for components or systems.

Let’s consider a power distribution system that consists of three transformers. The reliability of each transformer is given by their respective failure rates (λ) in failures per year. The failure rates are as follows:

Transformer 1: λ1 = 0.02 failures/year

Transformer 2: λ2 = 0.015 failures/year

Transformer 3: λ3 = 0.03 failures/year

We can calculate the reliability of each transformer using the PDF. The PDF for reliability (R) can be expressed as:

PDF(R) = λ * e^(-λt)

Where:

  • R is the reliability (probability of successful operation) at time t
  • λ is the failure rate (reciprocal of mean time between failures)
  • e is the base of the natural logarithm (approximately 2.71828)

We can use the PDF formula to calculate the reliability at a specific time. Let’s calculate the reliability of each transformer at t = 1 year:

Transformer 1:

PDF(R1) = 0.02 * e^(-0.02 * 1) ≈ 0.0196

Transformer 2:

PDF(R2) = 0.015 * e^(-0.015 * 1) ≈ 0.0146

Transformer 3:

PDF(R3) = 0.03 * e^(-0.03 * 1) ≈ 0.0292

We can summarize the reliability values in the following table:

TransformerReliability at t=1 year
Transformer 10.0196
Transformer 20.0146
Transformer 30.0292

2. Cumulative Distribution Function (CDF)

The cumulative distribution function (CDF) is a concept used in probability theory and statistics to describe the probability distribution of a random variable. It gives the probability that the random variable takes on a value less than or equal to a specific value.

In the context of reliability in power engineering, the CDF can determine the probability of failure or the cumulative failure rate within a given time frame.

Let’s revisit the example of a power distribution system with three transformers and their respective failure rates:

Transformer 1: λ1 = 0.02 failures/year

Transformer 2: λ2 = 0.015 failures/year

Transformer 3: λ3 = 0.03 failures/year

To calculate the CDF for a specific time t, we use the formula:

CDF(R) = 1 – e^(-λt)

Let’s calculate the CDF for each transformer at t = 1 year:

Transformer 1:

CDF(R1) = 1 – e^(-0.02 * 1) ≈ 0.0198

Transformer 2:

CDF(R2) = 1 – e^(-0.015 * 1) ≈ 0.0146

Transformer 3:

CDF(R3) = 1 – e^(-0.03 * 1) ≈ 0.0292

TransformerProbability of Successful Operation at t=1 year
Transformer 10.0198
Transformer 20.0146
Transformer 30.0296

The CDF provides information about the cumulative failure rate or the likelihood of failure up to a given time. In our example, the CDF values indicate the probability that each transformer will fail within one year.

For instance, the CDF value for Transformer 1 is approximately 0.0198. This means a 1.98% probability of Transformer 1 experiencing a failure within one year. Similarly, Transformer 2 has a 1.46% probability of failure, while Transformer 3 has a 2.92% probability of failure within the same time frame.

The CDF values allow us to assess the cumulative failure risk for each transformer, providing insights into their reliability performance over a specific period.

Related Reading

Failure and Time

The failure rate, mean time between failures (MTBF), and mean time to failure (MTTF) are essential concepts that provide insights into the reliability performance of components or systems.

Failure Rate

The failure rate, often denoted as λ (lambda), represents the rate at which failures occur for a given component or system. It is defined as the number of failures that occur per unit of time. Mathematically, the failure rate can be expressed as:

λ = Number of Failures / Time

The failure rate is a crucial parameter in reliability analysis as it helps estimate the probability of failure within a specific time period.

Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF)

The mean time between failures (MTBF) is the average time interval between consecutive failures of a component or system. It provides an indication of the average reliability and operational stability of the equipment. Mathematically, MTBF can be calculated as:

MTBF = Time / Number of Failures

A higher MTBF implies a longer average time between failures, indicating a more reliable system.

Mean Time To Failure (MTTF)

The mean time to failure (MTTF) represents the average time until a failure occurs for a component or system. It measures the expected lifetime or average operational duration before failure. MTTF is calculated as the reciprocal of the failure rate (λ):

MTTF = 1 / λ

The MTTF is used to assess the reliability and durability of equipment, providing an estimate of the average time until failure.

Use-Case of Failure and Time Approach in Power Systems

Consider the power distribution system consisting of four transformers. The system has been observed for 2,000 hours, during which three failures occurred. For the power distribution system, let’s calculate the failure rate, mean time between failures (MTBF), and mean time to failure (MTTF).

Given:

Number of failures (N) = 3

Observation time (T) = 2,000 hours

Failure Rate (λ)

The failure rate represents the rate at which failures occur. It can be calculated as the number of failures divided by the observation time:

λ = N / T

λ = 3 / 2,000 = 0.0015 failures/hour

Therefore, the failure rate for the power distribution system is 0.0015 failures per hour.

Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF)

MTBF represents the average time between consecutive failures. It can be calculated by dividing the observation time by the number of failures:

MTBF = T / N

MTBF = 2,000 / 3 = 666.67 hours

Therefore, the power distribution system’s mean time between failures (MTBF) is approximately 666.67 hours.

Mean Time To Failure (MTTF)

MTTF represents the average time until a failure occurs. It is the reciprocal of the failure rate:

MTTF = 1 / λ

MTTF = 1 / 0.0015 = 666.67 hours

Hence, the mean time to failure (MTTF) for the power distribution system is also approximately 666.67 hours.

In the above scenario, we used the given information on the number of failures and the observation time to calculate the failure rate, mean time between failures (MTBF), and mean time to failure (MTTF) for the power distribution system.

These metrics provide insights into the reliability and performance of the system, helping to assess its operational stability and expected time between failures.

Reliability Models

Reliability models are mathematical representations or frameworks used to analyze and evaluate the reliability and performance of systems or components. These models help understand systems’ behavior under different conditions and aid in making informed decisions to improve reliability.

The different structural formats (series or parallel) demonstrate the application of various reliability models in power engineering, highlighting how these models help analyze the reliability and performance of systems and components.

Each model provides insights into different system configurations, such as series, parallel, series-parallel, standby redundancy, and load-sharing, enabling engineers to make informed decisions to improve reliability and optimize system performance.

Let’s explore the following reliability models in the context of reliability in power engineering:

Series System Model

In a series system, components are connected in a series configuration, and the system fails if any of the components fail. The reliability of the series system is the product of the reliabilities of its individual components.

Consider a power distribution system with three transformers connected in series. The individual reliabilities of the transformers are as follows: R1 = 0.95, R2 = 0.96, and R3 = 0.97. Calculate the overall reliability of the series system.

The overall reliability of a series system is the product of the reliabilities of its components:

Overall Reliability = R1 * R2 * R3 = 0.95 * 0.96 * 0.97 = 0.8832

Therefore, the overall reliability of the power distribution system is 0.8832.

Parallel System Model

In a parallel system, components are connected in parallel, and the system fails only if all components fail. The reliability of the parallel system is obtained by subtracting the probability of all components failing from 1.

Consider a power generation plant with three generators connected in parallel. The individual reliabilities of the generators are as follows: R1 = 0.98, R2 = 0.95, and R3 = 0.99. Calculate the overall reliability of the parallel system.

The overall reliability of a parallel system can be calculated as

Overall Reliability = 1 – (1 – R1) * (1 – R2) * (1 – R3)

= 1 – (1 – 0.98) * (1 – 0.95) * (1 – 0.99)

= 0.9993

Therefore, the overall reliability of the power generation plant is approximately 0.9993.

Series-Parallel System Model

In a series-parallel system, components are connected in a combination of series and parallel configurations. This model allows for a more complex system structure that offers redundancy and reliability.

Now consider a power distribution system with two substations. Each substation consists of three transformers connected in parallel, and the substations are connected in series. The individual reliabilities of the transformers are as follows: R = 0.95. Calculate the overall reliability of the series-parallel system.

The overall reliability of a series-parallel system can be calculated by combining the series and parallel reliability models.

First, calculate the reliability of each substation connected in parallel:

Reliability of each substation = 1 – (1 – R)^3

= 1 – (1 – 0.95)^3

= 0.8575

Then, calculate the overall reliability of the series-parallel system:

Overall Reliability = Reliability of Substation 1 * Reliability of Substation 2

= 0.8575 * 0.8575

= 0.7351

Therefore, the overall reliability of the power distribution system is approximately 0.7351.

Standby Redundancy Model

In the standby redundancy model, a backup or standby component can take over if the primary component fails. The standby component remains idle until it is needed.

Suppose a power distribution system with a primary transformer and a standby transformer. The reliability of the primary transformer is R1 = 0.95, and the reliability of the standby transformer is R2 = 0.98. Calculate the overall reliability of the system.

The overall reliability of the standby redundancy model can be calculated as

Overall Reliability = R1 + (1 – R1) * R2

= 0.95 + (1 – 0.95) * 0.98

= 0.998

Therefore, the overall reliability of the power distribution system is approximately 0.998.

Load-Sharing Model

In the load-sharing model, multiple components share the load or operational demand. If one component fails, the remaining components take on a larger portion of the load.

Consider a power generation system with three generators sharing the load equally. The individual reliabilities of the generators are as follows: R1 = 0.98, R2 = 0.95, and R3 = 0.99. Calculate the overall reliability of the load-sharing system.

The overall reliability of the load-sharing model can be calculated as

Overall Reliability = R1 * R2 * R3

= 0.98 * 0.95 * 0.99

= 0.9233

Therefore, the overall reliability of the power generation system using load-sharing is approximately 0.9233.

Related Reading

Reliability Evaluation Techniques

Reliability Evaluation Techniques

In a practical approach, the application of reliability assessment of complex power systems is more structural and standardized across the industry compared to what we study as theory and mathematics in Reliability in the PE Power exam.

Let’s have a look at some industry-wide renowned practices.

Fault Tree Analysis (FTA)

Fault Tree Analysis (FTA) is a systematic and graphical method used in reliability engineering to analyze and evaluate the potential causes of system failures. It provides a logical and structured approach to identifying and understanding the events and conditions that can lead to a specific undesired outcome or failure.

In FTA, a fault tree is constructed using logical gates and events. The events represent the potential causes or failures, and the logical gates depict the relationships and dependencies between these events.

By analyzing the fault tree, engineers can identify critical events or combinations of events that contribute to the overall system failure.

Let’s look at the following example.

An electrical power distribution system experiences a complete blackout during peak load conditions. To perform a Fault Tree Analysis to identify the possible causes of this blackout.

Step 1: Define the Top Event:

The top event represents the undesired outcome or failure we want to analyze. In this case, the top event is the complete blackout during peak load conditions.

Step 2: Identify Basic Events

Identify the primary events that may contribute to the top event. These events can be specific failures, malfunctions, or conditions that could lead to the blackout. Some possible primary events in this scenario could include

  • Failure of the primary power supply,
  • Failure of the backup power supply,
  • Overloading of transformers,
  • Faulty circuit breakers,
  • Voltage instability
  • Failure of protective relays

Step 3: Construct the Fault Tree:

Create a fault tree by connecting the primary events using logical gates such as AND and OR gates. The AND gate represents the simultaneous occurrence of multiple events, while the OR gate represents alternative events contributing to the top event.

The fault tree diagram for the blackout scenario may look like this:

Fault Tree Analysis

In this diagram, the top event is the “Complete Blackout during Peak Load Conditions.” The primary power supply, overloading of transformers, and voltage instability are identified as the potential causes of the blackout.

Additionally, the failure of circuit breakers, failure of backup power, and failure of protective relays are included as contributing events that can lead to the top event.

*Remember that fault tree diagrams can vary in complexity and detail depending on the specific system and analysis requirements. The provided diagram represents a simplified example.

Step 4: Analyze the Fault Tree:

Analyze the fault tree to determine the critical events or combinations of events that can lead to the top event. This analysis helps identify the root causes and areas for improvement.

Step 5: Mitigation and Improvement

Based on the analysis, appropriate mitigation measures can be developed to address critical events and improve the reliability of the power distribution system. These measures may include redundancy in power supplies, upgrading protective relays, improving voltage regulation, and ensuring proper maintenance of circuit breakers.

By performing Fault Tree Analysis (FTA) in this example, we can identify the potential causes of the blackout during peak load conditions. This analysis enables power engineers to focus their efforts on addressing critical events and implementing measures to enhance the reliability and performance of the power distribution system.

Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA)

Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) is a systematic and proactive approach used to identify and assess potential failure modes of a system or component and their potential effects on system performance.

FMEA is widely used in various industries, including power engineering, to prioritize failure modes based on severity, occurrence, and detectability.

Now let’s apply an FMEA technique to a generator used in a power generation plant to identify and prioritize potential failure modes and their effects.

Step 1: Identify Failure Modes:

Identify all possible failure modes the generator can experience. This can include bearing wear, insulation breakdown, cooling system failure, fuel system issues, and voltage regulator malfunction.

Step 2: Determine the Effects

For each failure mode identified, determine its effects on the generator and the overall power generation system. It might include reduced power output, increased emissions, increased maintenance costs, and potential system shutdown.

Step 3: Assign Severity, Occurrence, and Detectability Ratings

Assign severity, occurrence, and detectability ratings to each failure mode. Severity indicates the impact of the failure mode on the system or component, occurrence represents the likelihood of the failure mode occurring, and detectability means the ease of detecting the failure mode.

Step 4: Calculate the Risk Priority Number (RPN)

Calculate the Risk Priority Number (RPN) for each failure mode by multiplying the severity, occurrence, and detectability ratings. The RPN helps prioritize the failure modes based on their overall risk level.

Step 5: Prioritize and Take Action

Prioritize the failure modes based on their RPN values and take appropriate actions to mitigate or eliminate the high-risk failure modes. This can include implementing design improvements, conducting preventive maintenance, or enhancing monitoring systems.

Markov Analysis

Markov Analysis, also known as Markov Chains, is a mathematical modeling technique used to analyze systems’ dynamic behavior and reliability over time. It utilizes transition probabilities between different states of a system to predict its future behavior.

To apply Markov Analysis to assess the reliability of a power distribution system with two backup generators.

Step 1: Define the States

Identify the different states of the system. In this case, the states can be defined as follows:

  • State 1: Normal operation with the main generator.
  • State 2: Backup generator 1 in operation.
  • State 3: Backup generator 2 in operation.

Step 2: Determine Transition Probabilities:

Determine the transition probabilities between different states based on the reliability of the generators and the probability of failure or repair.

Assuming the following transition probabilities:

  • Probability of transitioning from State 1 to State 2: 0.05 (primary generator failure)
  • Probability of transitioning from State 2 to State 3: 0.1 (backup generator 1 failure)
  • Probability of transitioning from State 3 to State 1: 0.15 (repair of the backup generator 2)
  • Probability of staying in the same state: 1 minus the sum of other transition probabilities.

Step 3: Create the Markov Model

Construct the Markov model by representing the states and transition probabilities in a matrix format.

The Markov model for this example can be represented as

StatesState 1State 2State 3
State 10.950.050
State 200.90.1
State 30.1500.85

Step 4: Analyze the Markov Model

Analyze the Markov model to determine the steady-state probabilities or long-term behavior of the system. These probabilities indicate the reliability and availability of the power distribution system under different operating conditions.

Step 5: Interpret Results

The next step is to interpret the results to assess the power distribution system’s reliability and identify improvement areas. For example, if the steady-state probability of being in State 1 (regular operation) is high, it indicates a reliable system. If the probabilities of being in backup states (States 2 and 3) are high, it suggests a less reliable system requiring attention.

Monte Carlo Simulation

Monte Carlo Simulation is a computational technique that uses random sampling to simulate and analyze the behavior of complex systems or processes. It is handy when there are uncertainties or variability in the input parameters of a system.

Let’s apply Monte Carlo Simulation to evaluate the reliability of a wind farm, considering uncertainties in wind speed and turbine performance.

Step 1: Define Input Parameters

Identify the input parameters that affect the reliability of the wind farm. In this case, the fundamental parameters include wind speed, turbine efficiency, and failure rates.

Step 2: Define Probability Distributions

Assign probability distributions to the input parameters based on available data or expert knowledge. For example, wind speed can follow a Weibull distribution, turbine efficiency can follow a normal distribution, and turbine failure rates can follow an exponential distribution.

Step 3: Generate Random Samples

Using a random number generator, generate random samples from the defined probability distributions for each input parameter. The number of samples depends on the desired level of accuracy and statistical significance.

Step 4: Perform System Analysis

For each random sample, simulate the wind farm’s performance using appropriate models and algorithms.

For instance, calculate the reliability metrics such as power output, downtime, or availability.

Step 5: Analyze Results

Analyze the results obtained from the Monte Carlo Simulation to assess the reliability of the wind farm under different scenarios. Identify the distribution of the reliability metrics and estimate the probabilities of meeting specific performance targets.

Monte Carlo Simulation allows engineers to understand the uncertainties and variability associated with the reliability of the wind farm and make informed decisions on design improvements, maintenance strategies, or risk mitigation methodologies.

Related Reading

Conclusion

The significance of reliability in power engineering cannot be overstated from the perspective of both reliability in the PE power exam and power engineering career growth. It is the bedrock upon which electrical systems’ stability, efficiency, and resilience are built.

By understanding the concepts, models, and analysis techniques related to reliability, power engineers can make informed decisions, mitigate risks, and ensure the uninterrupted flow of electricity to communities and industries.

If you’re inspired to deepen your knowledge and pursue a successful career in power engineering, we encourage you to explore the comprehensive PE Power exam preparation courses offered by Study for FE. Visit Study for FE today and take the next step towards unlocking your potential in the world of power engineering.

wasim-smal

Licensed Professional Engineer in Texas (PE), Florida (PE) and Ontario (P. Eng) with consulting experience in design, commissioning and plant engineering for clients in Energy, Mining and Infrastructure.