DeepThermal: Combustion Optimization for Thermal Power Generating Units Using Offline Reinforcement Learning

Published in Reinforcement Learning for Real Life Workshop @ ICML 2021, 2021

Recommended citation: Zhan, X., Xu, H., Zhang, Y., Zhu, X. and Yin, H. DeepThermal: Combustion Optimization for Thermal Power Generating Units Using Offline Reinforcement Learning. In Reinforcement Learning for Real Life Workshop @ ICML 2021.

Abstract

Optimizing the combustion efficiency of a thermal power generating unit (TPGU) is a highly challenging and critical task in the energy industry. We develop a new data-driven AI system, namely DeepThermal, to optimize the combustion control strategy for TPGUs. At its core, is a new model-based offline reinforcement learning (RL) framework, called MORE, which leverages logged historical operational data of a TGPU to solve a highly complex constrained Markov decision process problem via purely offline training. In DeepThermal, we first learn a data-driven combustion process simulator from the offline dataset. The RL agent of MORE is then trained by combining real historical data as well as carefully filtered and processed simulation data through a novel restrictive exploration scheme. DeepThermal has been successfully deployed in four large coal-fired thermal power plants in China. Real-world experiments show that DeepThermal effectively improves the combustion efficiency of a TPGU. We also report and demonstrate the superior performance of MORE by comparing with the state-of-the-art algorithms on the standard offline RL benchmarks.

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