In the near future, the rise of energy production will result in a need for extensive modernisation of heating plants. In addition, production capacity will be increased by the continuous construction of new, more economical and environmentally friendly plants, replacing conventional fuels with new ones. When investing in a new heating plant or renovating an old one, it is important to ensure the automation systems are working in a way that really makes the daily life of the plant operators easier. We have put together three benefits key you get from an optimised thermal plant automation system.
All heating plants have some form of automation system designed to make the daily life of the plant operators easier and to enable unmanned operation of the plant. Often, however, these systems are not as comprehensively programmed as they could be. Plant operators still have to manually perform tasks that could be automated. Situations where automation could be used more effectively can be difficult to pinpoint, but with the help of an expert it is possible to identify where automation can support users.
A typical situation is the manual monitoring of process limit values and the operation of control measures based on the monitoring; in this scenario, time is occupied by staring at gauges. Based on user data, we identify indicators that signal the need for action. The automation is then trained to detect the right indicators and react appropriately to these situations.
The facility worker’s time and expertise are valuable, and with properly tuned automation systems, this precious resource is freed up to be used for the things that really need human attention.
Well-designed automation saves time, money and the nerves of plant operators. But if the systems don't serve their users properly, nothing is saved. Overly complex, difficult to use or time-consuming automation processes are more likely to waste time and get in the way of smooth working.
Sometimes old, tried and tested manual ways of working are indeed the best solution, but with automation systems optimised for the needs of the users of the plant, the concern about making work more difficult is misplaced. Automation should not introduce anything extra, cumbersome or irreversible. A well-designed automation system can always be switched off if a temporary return to manual operation is required.
Customers must be assured of support even after the automation systems have been installed. Support must be available in case of problems, to make adjustments to the system when necessary, and to ensure that the automation system really serves its users.
Over their lifetime, heating plants are subjected to severe stresses and strains, for example due to round-the-clock production, fluctuating consumption, and the adjustments that these require. Automation can often meet these challenges more efficiently than manual work, which consequently reduces the burden on the plant and its operators.
Automation helps to optimise the efficiency of the plant. The results of efficiency improvements are reflected both in environmental performance and in economic savings. Efficiency can be monitored by a programme that monitors, for example, waste heat, combustion purity, and electricity consumption.
If limit values are exceeded, the system notifies the user. This way, the user only needs to bother with monitoring the limit values when concrete action is required.
We believe that the most important feedback in any project comes from the users. With 15 years of experience in thermal automation, we know how to focus on ease of use and system reliability in everything we do. Our automation team is trained to identify and respond to the individual needs of each site. This is how we build an automation system that acts as a stable partner in the daily operation of a heating plant.
Want to know more? Read the case study about how we did electrical and automation solutions for Terrafame steam boiler plant.
This is translated from the original Finnish version.