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Game Changer Award winners for 2020

| By Dorothy Lozowski


Each year, the Connected Plant Conference, presented by Chemical Engineering and POWER, recognizes people who are in the front line of implementing digital technologies in the chemical process and power industries. This year, we congratulate the following winners of the “Game Changer” Awards, who were honored at the Connected Plant Conference in Atlanta on February 26:


Game Changers 2020

The Game Changer Award winners are honored at the Connected Plant Conference (photo: Jenkins)

Manuel Lombardero, AES  — Manuel digitalized the lubrication maintenance program at his company, making information readily accessible through the use of QR codes to mobile devices. Safety data sheets, technical specifications, procedures and analytical data were included. He also created training videos to help digitalize and retain knowledge in the plant.


Albert Rooyakkers, Bedrock Automation — Albert is responsible for designing and producing an open and secure platform for industrial control systems, Open Secure Automation (OSA). He started a company, Bedrock Automation, where cybersecurity protection is intrinsic to its control offerings to remove cybersecurity cost and complexity as a barrier to the benefits of the IIoT.



Kim Gilbert, Beyond Limits — Kim is leading a team to develop architecture for the world’s first cognitive power plant, which will be installed as part of a large-scale infrastructure program to drive core industrial capacity and power economic development in West Africa. The planned AI system architecture will capture and encode expert operator knowledge before it is lost, and integrate it with more traditional, numeric AI approaches to create cognitive agents.


SEIGA Team (Seamless EPCOM Integrated Global Access), Eastman Chemical Company — The SEIGA team started with two people and a vision to employ emerging digital technologies for more efficient work processes. That vision has grown to a team of 15 individuals who have created an integrated digital EPCOM (Engineering, Procurement, Construction, Operations and Maintenance) environment for Eastman Chemical Company. SEIGA has incorporated industry best practices and software with proprietary internal coding and collaboration to automate engineering workflows, purchasing, and AWP (Advanced Work Packaging) construction systems.



Juan Panama, Emerson — Juan is the business development manager responsible for the chemical and power industries within Emerson’s Digital Transformation Business Group. In his role, he helps end users solve their toughest challenges through innovative sensing technologies, software, and solutions. His efforts have helped prevent forced outages, reduced efficiency losses and enabled better planning — allo wing end-users to save time and money.



John Chowdhury, Frisco Green Energy — John leads a world-class consulting and software company to help implement automation in power and manufacturing plants. His leadership and technology capabilities were instrumental in connecting all hydro, gas and solar power under one system at Southern California Edison (SCE), essentially connecting all of the “green” power under one management system.




Michael Parrella and Martin Shimko, GTherm Inc. — Michael and Martin invented a Comprehensive Enhanced Oil Recovery System, for which GTherm Energy, Inc. was recently awarded a patent. GTherm effectively implements a modular electrical generation plant and chemical plant on targeted light and heavy crude reservoirs. The power is generated from the gas from extraction, CO2 from the exhaust is separated and sequestered back into the reservoir and the separated nitrogen is released or sold. The electricity generated is used in the process and sold to the grid. It is the lowest cost clean digitally controlled energy system available.


Jared Witte, Kuraray America — Jared Witte is responsible for initiating a transformative culture shift of a specialty chemical and functional materials plant by moving the organization from a company who relied on historical trends and lab results to real-time process data that enables data-driven decisions to be made. With an increased focus on developing a systematic approach, Jared has transformed key learnings from the initial project into plans for a more wide-spread roll out to other production lines and additional process areas.


Todd Synoground, Ashley Ward, Amy Basche and Jeff Flora, Mission Support Alliance — This team represents a collaboration between several utilities for a Department of Energy Contract and is responsible for a site that is 580sq miles and services hundreds of facilities.  The team works with Microsoft to utilize HoloLens, which provides a mixed reality platform that will enhance operational efficiency, improve maintenance planning, modernize training, and provide reliability and availability improvements of key infrastructure systems.










Samer Arafa, Justin Woodard and Tyler Krupa, National Grid — The fast growth of distributed energy resources (DERs) has presented voltage and frequency regulation challenges. National Grid’s proactive approach was to develop twenty-four advanced Photovoltaic Facilities (PVF,) each equipped with a unique combination of smart inverters, energy storage, advanced metering, plant level control and other equipment. The program objective is to better understand the impact these advanced technologies can have on the grid, reduce customer interconnection costs and time, and potentially improve hosting capacity, while improving the distribution system’s overall power quality and reliability. National Grid also partnered with Industry leaders, EPRI, Sandia and Fraunhofer with each offering its unique approach to solving the problems in hand.


Carlos Sua and Annamalai Lakshmanan, NextEra Energy Resources, LLC — Carlos has been leading the path for use of emerging technologies by successfully implementing a remote service guidance program using smart glasses to help wind techs get expert advice remotely, and by building applications that have used augmented reality to place imaginary objects in real world view through an iPad, which is currently being evaluated for movement of cranes within the generating unit for repairs and construction. Lak is a technology evangelist in the power generation space and has democratized emerging technology solutions for field use through his innovative and inclusive leadership.


Jay Panicker and Prabhakar Nellore, OpenEGrid — Jay and Prabhakar have created the electrical power generation industry’s first open-standards-based communications Gateways and Aggregator that enables utility companies, ISOs, and grid operators to coordinate and jointly control the emerging ‘Smart Grid’. This key component is an essential part of the ‘smarts’ in the Smart-Grid.


Smart Wires team — Smart Wires has developed a modular power flow control technology that, when installed on a utility grid,  allows utilities to dynamically control the power flows on their network. This solution consists of sophisticated hardware, software and controls that provides electric utilities with real-time, dynamic control of their transmission assets. By increasing the efficiency of their existing grids, utilities can unlock latent capacity, quickly and inexpensively enabling greater transfers on the grid.


Andy Tang, Wärtsilä — Andy and his team are helping customers progress toward their ambitious renewable energy goals. They have connected customers around the world with GEMS, a cutting-edge energy management platform that enables customers to tap into the full potential of renewables and eliminates intermittency issues with AI and data analytics capabilities. Through Andy’s leadership, more than 50 utilities, IPPs and other global customers have adopted GEMS and are shifting toward cleaner power systems.

Benjamin Blanchette, Georgia-Pacific — Ben made an immediate impact in the trajectory of the company’s transformation when he joined Georgia Pacific, largely through his focus on transparency and collaboration, as well as “what can be” instead of “what had to be.” He championed that a long term advantage could be gained from becoming adept and agile at recognizing and adopting new technologies and methodologies faster than the competition.




Editor’s note: This post was updated on 2/27/2020 after the award presentation