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GE Mark VI as DCS for the Whole Power Plant
Experience about GE Mark VIe as DCS for the whole power plant


I wonder if anyone has hands on experience with GE Mark VIe DCS system. I received information that GE is now offering Mark VIe DCS system for the whole power plant (not only for turbine controller).

I have found a lot of information and references regarding the application of Mar VI control system for turbine controls (especially for gas turbines), but I cannot find much information about GE DCS for the whole power plant (boiler, generator, BOP). I wonder if that is something new and how this system can compare to other leading control systems such as Ovation, SPPA-T3000, ABB S+ and similar.

Best regards

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The GE Mark VIe control system has been supplied as a plant level control for GE combined cycle power plants (including HRSG and BOP) at least since 2008. Up front warning here: I may not be completely unbiased on this subject, since I am a retiree of GE (since late 2009). I personally designed plant level control systems using the Mark VIe on several projects. At the time I retired, GE was only supplying this control system for plants which were powered by GE gas turbines and usually with GE steam turbines. I do not know their current practices.

That said, you need to understand that the "whole" plant was not directly controlled by the Mark VIe, nor would it likely have been completely controlled by any competing DCS. The "whole" plant generally includes supporting systems that are controlled by local PLC's (water treatment, burner management for fired HRSG's, liquid fuel treatment, to name a few). These PLC controllers were usually connected to the Mark VIe via a MODBUS over Ethernet link so that the operators could monitor and issue start/stop type commands and display alarms from these systems. Using this approach enables these support systems to be tested with their own controllers as well as catering to on time delivery of the DCS, since vendor selection for these systems usually occurs too late in the procurement cycle to support direct control by the DCS.

So, in short, the Mark VIe control system should be able to do what you need in a plant level DCS and is a very good fit for combined cycle plants powered by GE turbines.

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You are using Mark VI and Mark VIe interchangeably; they are two separate, but somewhat similar, control systems. They share some I/O terminal boards but the Mark VI is physically much larger than the Mark VIe.

Both systems were developed to be able to have remote I/O--that is, to be able to have input/output terminal boards located remotely from the main processors. The Mark VI was used for the very first H-class advanced heavy duty gas turbines which had steam cooling for the shaft and needed to be able to control the HRSG (boiler) and auxiliary plant controls (BOP, etc.) in order to properly control and protect the gas (and steam) turbine(s). Several I/O-specific cards were developed to interface with balance of plant devices (for example, motor-operated valves), and many blocks were developed and written for controlling balance of plant functions (such as boiler drum level control, etc.).

The Mark VI and Mark VIe have both been used in many combined cycle power plants as DCS controls as well as turbine controls. The issue with this implementation--which is the same for any other controller manufacturer using the "same" control system for DCS/BOP and turbine control is: The turbine control portion of the control system is usually done by a group or groups (gas turbine group; steam turbine group) and the DCS/BOP portion of the control system is usually done by a group which is experienced with DCS/BOP design. And the groups don't usually communicate very well during the design, configuration and programming phase. This leads to LOTS of issues which must be resolved when all the different portions are finally put together during commissioning. Sometimes, the issues are easily resolved; sometimes not.

But the thing to remember about this is: It's NOT particular to GE Mark VI or Mark VIe. Any control system supplier or integrator using one control system is going to experience the same issues because there is so much specialization in today's world, and there's very little coordination at the configuration/programming phase. Also, different groups use different nomenclature for their control and protection schemes, which leads to confusing and conflicting programming (and can even cause problems during commissioning).

The Mark VI and Mark VIe are both fine control systems, and can be made to control many phases of a power plant in addition to the turbine(s). And, with the additional emphasis on DCS/BOP controls that have been placed by GE on the equipment and programming for the two control systems they are more than capable.

What everyone really wants is a single operator interface for all of their plant control systems. Yes; it would be nice to also have the same hardware, too. But, many control system manufacturers (including GE) use different hardware and components (all labeled as being of the same family of control) to implement the various portions of the control system. AND, many (including GE) also use different programming methods (ladder logic; FBDs (Function Block Diagrams); etc.) for the various portions of the "integrated" control system.

Will you be happy with a Mark VIe plant-wide control system? Yes. Will it be the integrated and seamless and holistic control system the salespeople are telling you it will be? No. Will it have advantages over some other systems? Yes. Will it have shortcomings over some other systems? Yes. Is it adequate? More than adequate. Is it superior to others? That's a totally subjective assessment.

It has been used, and is being used, as both a turbine control system and a DCS/BOP control system with great success. It has components (hardware and software) which are designed for both applications that work well together. It's a purpose-built control system--built primarily for controlling and protecting turbines and auxiliaries, but is also being successfully adapted for DCS/BOP control. It's not a PAC (Programmable Action Controller) or PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) which has a lot of converters and adapters and special card and software to allow it to function as a turbine control & protection system, and a DCS/BOP control system (such as high-speed speed sensing cards, and LVDT-mA converters, and bipolar servo-valve output controllers, and flame detector interfaces, and vibration sensing converters). It began life as a turbine control and protection system and can natively interface with all of the I/O typically used on turbines, and because turbines are used in power plants the capability of the Mark* control systems is naturally being expanded into the DCS/BOP realm by developing hardware and software to natively interface with components and equipment typically found in power plants.

But, remember--there are gas turbine groups who do things their way, and steam turbine groups who do things their way, and DCS/BOP groups who do things their way. And, usually it's left up to the commissioning people to sort out the details and get everything running and communicating. And, the various portions of the control system will have different nomenclature and programming methods which will add to some frustration. But, you will have similar hardware and a similar programming/troubleshooting and operator interface for the entire plant. All in a purpose-built control system. Is it going to be all alike and similar? No. But, it beats having several different control systems all with their own hardware and software. And, again--it's a purpose-built control system with decades of experience in the power plant business.

Hope this helps!

Hello CSA,

thank you very much for your reply. Yes I have used the terms Mark VI and Mark VIe interchangeably, but this is because I have no experience with GE DCS.

I have relative experience with the GE PLC controller RX3i used as a protection system for a steam turbine. And yes, indeed there would be excellent if one control system could be employed in the whole power plant, but I know that's not very likely.

On the other hand, I was in one coal power plant in which SPPA-T3000 is installed not only for control and monitoring boiler and turbine (R3000), but also on water treatment facility and coal handling.
A separate automation control cabinets and operator stations were placed in control rooms of these facilities and there are a optical link to the rest of DCS installed in the main control room of the unit. Some smaller plants have its own PLCs but approximately 90% I/Os were covered by one control system.

But if GE is delivering steam turbine and generator with its own control and monitoring, and there are two separate contracts for the new power plant (BTG and BOP), from the point of view of the customer it makes sense that control of boiler (I/Os, automation logic, HMI) can be covered with the GE system in order to achieve same HW and same HMI operator philosophy. GE can offer Mark VIe as DCS system for BTG in order to have one unique platform for the main equipment.

The real question is if GE Mark VIe DCS have its on boiler protection system and burner management system or it buys equipment form other manufacturers and integrate in its own system.

What is also hard for me is to find list of reference of Mark VIe in steam power plants (steam turbines) used also for boiler.
I also wonder what is the current market share of GE DCS comparing to Siemens, ABB, Emerson etc.

I know that GE is actually an American product, and I can imagine it's probably easier to use and to maintenance comparing to European products such as Siemens SPPA-T3000.

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>The real question is if GE Mark VIe DCS have its on boiler protection
>system and burner management system or it buys equipment from other
>manufacturers and integrate in its own system.

In the case of an HRSG duct burner, the BMS (Burner Management System) is provided as part of the complete burner system package- the burner fuel skid, burner runners, and the BMS control system- by companies who specializes in burners and burner management (like Forney, DeJong, etc). The BMS plc then communicates with the DCS via modbus or similar communication link. Starting and stopping of the BMS as well as loading of the duct burner is handled by the MarkVIe, but Burner protection is handled by the BMS. HRSG boiler controls and protection are done by GE within the MarkVIe DCS. It is typical that the Duct Burner is provided as a sub-contract to the HRSG package.

Also, in the last few years GE has focused heavily on integrating their GT, ST, and HRSG systems. The engineers often sit close by and work as a team to support tighter integration.

Hello Askic,

" What is also hard for me is to find list of reference of Mark VIe in steam power plants (steam turbines) used also for boiler.
I also wonder what is the current market share of GE DCS comparing to Siemens, ABB, Emerson etc."

Did you get some informations about that? If so please tell me because I would like to do a comparison between these different DCS system


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Good question. I will agree with some of the comments above. GE has been doing Mark VIe ICS plants since 2008. However, they have been Doing Mark VI GT's since the late 1990s. There are ~2000 installed GTs with Mark VI. ~1500 installed GT's with Mark VIe. ~200 installed BOP/DCS sites with Mark VIe. As said above, the DCS portion tends to be HRSG control and some BOP stuff. Fire protection, BMS, aux skids tend to have other PLCs.

Since GE owns ~40% of the GT market, then the Mark VI & Mark VIe installed base of Gas Turbines is about 40% (Note, this is only for turbines built in the last 20 years). However, for the DCS Mark VIe is a small small percentage. I would imagine about 1% of sites have Mark VIe DCS. Emerson owns the DCS market in the US. Siemens owns the DCS market in Europe.


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Hello, Achraf,

It's highly likely that GE salespeople would have exactly the information you are looking for.

Now, the struggle is to find the right department/person in GE to provide the information you are looking for.

I would suggest using your preferred World Wide Web search engine to search for the GE facility in Salem VA, USA, and look for an email address to their sales/marketing group(s).

Any good sales/marketing group will have exactly the numbers you are asking about--how many and where their equipment is in service, and for how long, as well as market share information which will tell you how many, comparatively, of their systems are in service relative to other systems in similar applications. Actually, it would be good to contact the sales/marketing organizations of every vendor you are considering for the same information--and then compare that.

Remember: When choosing a control system (ANY control system for ANY application) it's more about the experience and knowledge of the people who will be configuring and programming the equipment than the manufacturer. Some manufacturers make equipment that is primarily configured and programmed and installed and serviced by control system integrators, independent companies who are either associated with one or more manufacturers or who can buy equipment from one or more manufacturers. It's really about the experience and knowledge of the people--not the equipment, because even marginal equipment can often be properly configured and programmed (and installed and commissioned), just as great equipment (hardware and software specifications) can be poorly configured and programmed and installed and commissioned. So, while the hardware/software is important, the people who will be configuring and programming and installing and commissioning that equipment is the MOST important criteria in selecting a control system. And, ask for references from any supplier (even the manufacturer if they are going to do the configuring, programming, installation and commissioning) for past jobs, and then contact those references to get their impressions of the overall job--not just the hardware, but the software, installation, commissioning and after-market service support.

Hope this helps!

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If you are looking only for straight steam plants with GE steam turbines with Mark VIe turbine controls and with Mark VIe controls for boiler control and maybe balance of plant (BOP) control, I think the list is very small. All of the plants I know of that used the Mark VIe as a plant DCS are combined cycle plants with GE gas turbines, GE steam turbines, GE generators, and Heat Recovery Steam Generators (boilers) specified by GE. The reason is that combined cycle plants were typically supplied by GE (with partners teaming with GE for supplying BOP and construction services) as a turn-key project, with performance guarantees by GE. As such, GE needed to control all the equipment that impacted plant performance.

For straight steam plants, the end user would typically deal with a construction company as the lead supplier and that company would take care of purchasing all of the equipment, including the steam turbine, boiler, DCS, BOP equipment. GE's performance guarantees would be limited to the steam turbine (and generator), with the overall plant performance guarantees assumed by the construction company. The construction company usually found it cost effective to purchase the DCS from other suppliers, like ABB, Emerson and Foxboro.

While I have been retired from GE for over 9 years, I very much doubt that things have changed much in this regard.

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Some folks above made a comment about getting in contact with the GE salem team and a list of DCS Mark VIe plants. I am happy to help with both if needed. I used to work for GE's automation business for 9 years, so I know the right people to talk with.

Let me know. Reach out to me @

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As I said to Max,

My project is to study the different control/instrumentation solutions to have a global view about "what to use and in which case?" This concerns DCS systems as well as communication protocols.

Well, my first goal is to study solutions for the BOP part of the plant (balance of plant). I was told that actually Mark VIe isn't a really good solution for it, and I'm looking for information about the other DCS systems like Emerson, ABB.. or eventually the use of a PLC,

Thank you!

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Just about any programmable logic controller (PLC), or programmable action controller (PAC, the new politically correct way to refer to programmable controllers), can be used for BOP controls.

Mark VIe is a purpose-built control system--built to control turbines, and it has been successfully expanded to support BOP control and to serve as DCS controls. And very successfully, too. BOP/DCS control is a natural extension for Mark VIe, and with GE's H- and HA-class units which require VERY CLOSE synchronization with HRSG and balance-of-plant controls GE has designed specific modules and software especially for the Mark VIe to interface with BOP field devices and instruments.

People have taken many different brands and versions of MANY PLCs/PACs and applied them for turbine control systems AND BOP controls AND DCS controls, some successfully and some not. But, you want to know what the key to success is: Not the brand of the controller, or the HMI. It's the knowledge and expertise of the people configuring, programming, installing and commissioning the controller for the application it's being used for.

That's what ME42 is trying to tell you, in both of these posts. That's what has been said already in other similar threads and posts and replies. These days, you could just about use any programmable controller (logic or action) for just about any application. Would you put a Mark VIe in a chicken-processing plant? No. Why? Because it would be prohibitively expensie--but it could be made to work, and very well, too. IF THE PEOPLE CONFIGURING IT, PROGRAMMING IT, INSTALLING IT AND COMMISSIONING IT HAD EXPERIENCE WITH THE PROCESSES AND FIELD DEVICES AND INSTRUMENTS INVOLVED IN PROCESSING CHICKENS.

And, don't believe everything you hear. Question what you're told--but to just say, "...the Mark VIe is not a good solution for it...." without understanding why that was said, or repeating it without qualifying it is not very professional.

Again--just about any programmable controller can be adapted to just about any application, if the people applying the controller understand the application and what's supposed to happen when and how it's supposed to happen.

Finally, there's something you should realize if you don't already: Engineering is a series of compromises. That holds true for just about EVERYTHING you can think of. That's why there's no perfect automobile--people have to start with a set of assumptions about what they want, say, luxury or performance. But to have the best of both--well, that's just virtually impossible, if for no other reason than economics. And, economics is always a very important part of any engineering decision, also.

Good luck with your endeavour!

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Thank you guys, very useful information and help!

My objective is to study all the different solutions and not to choose the best one.

I know that there is no best solution. It depends on lots of requirements and the nature of the application, and also the knowledge and expertise of the people configuring, programming, installing and commissioning. My objective is to list the possible solutions in order to know what to apply in which case.

Again thank you for your comments!