Green Engineering With Virtual Reality Training

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is stepping into the new millennium. Soon the DOE will implement new simulation software as a training tool to develop new, zero-emission integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plants with carbon capture. The Invensys Operations Management software, EYESim, will simulate the IGCC process in a 3D virtual reality environment.

Clean coal is a major green engineering initiative that the government and environmental agencies have been emphasizing for many years. Government agencies and environmental groups are concerned about coal being used as an energy source because of the negative impact it has on the environment. Burning coal emits harmful gases, such as CO2, sulfur dioxide and particulates, into the air.

IGCC is a clean coal technology that turns coal into synthetic gas called synthesis gas (syngas). Before the coal gas is combusted, all impurities are removed. By removing impurities prior to combustion, lower emissions of sulfur dioxide, mercury and particulates occur. Excess heat from primary combustion and generation processes is passed to a steam cycle and a combined cycle gas turbine.

The result is improved efficiency compared to conventional pulverized coal. Since coal is used for approximately 50% of US electricity needs, lowered emissions that IGCC allows will have greater importance in the future as emission regulations become stricter.

According to the DOE, EYESim is a great design and training solution because it creates a safe, cost-efficient training environment where engineers can develop their skills in analysis, operation and control of IGCC plants. The EYESim software works similar to any other virtual reality experience even though it is being used in a green engineering manner to better understand IGCC plants.

Trainees using EYESim enter the virtual environment by wearing a stereoscopic headset to see exactly what they would see in an actual IGCC plant. Software developers pay special attention to the details of the actual environment so that the virtual plant looks and feels just like a real one. In an effort to ensure that the virtual environment is life-like, the software renders the virtual environment at 60 frames per second.

The DOE plans to use these simulations in demonstrations, education and training. The simulations will specifically target IGCC plant operation and control, technology familiarization and hands-on computer-based training. In addition to training and education uses, EYESim simulations will be used to demonstrate clean coal technology as a feasible way to support future electrical generation demand without emitting environmental pollutants or greenhouse gases.

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