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Cenibra - cutting down on steam by 90%

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Cenibra - cutting down on steam by 90%

November 14, 2010 - 14:00

BRUSSELS, Nov. 15, 2010 (RISI) -Keeping a balance between steam supply and demand is a challenging task in a multi-line pulp mill complex, since there are always many sources of supply and multiple users of steam energy. But pulp mill processes are dynamic and often in transition. So if this delicate equilibrium is disturbed on the supply side or at the demand side, it is quite common for the steam network to get out-of-balance, which can result in steam supply variations. Some key processes may lack steam or steam may be vented, both of which waste energy and money. Typically, when process steam demand is not met by primary sources, auxiliary boilers are used to make up the difference, often using more expensive non-bio fuels like oil or gas. And, when excess steam is vented a lot of valuable fuel and money is wasted, and this adds to the carbon footprint of the mill.

To keep that ideal balance point and with an eye on saving boiler fuel and reducing carbon emissions Celulose Nipo-Brasileira S.A. (Cenibra) commissioned a Metso Steam Manager optimization control for the steam supply and distribution system of its elemental chlorine-free (ECF) bleached eucalyptus fiber pulp mill in Minas Gerais, Belo Oriente, Brazil. The mill is owned by Japan Brazil Paper and Pulp Resources Development Co., Ltd. The total production from two fiber lines is 1.16 million tonnes/yr, 92% of which is exported. Cenibra, one of the largest pulp producers in Brazil, is also one of the country's pioneer pulp producers since it was established in 1977.

The commissioning of the Steam Manager advanced process control (APC) system in May 2009 has paid off handsomely as vented steam has been reduced by an astounding 90% and the steam supply has been stabilized. "Steam consumption is lower and Steam Manager meets our expectations, reducing costs and this is reflected in oil consumption," reports Róbinson Félix, mill manager.

Róbinson Félix, mill manager

Improving stability, lowering costs

The decision to commission Steam Manager was part of a larger, more comprehensive plan by the mill to optimize many of its mill processes to improve process stability, produce uniform quality and lower costs. Altogether, five Metso APC systems have been commissioned in the mill.

The Steam Manager project was a collaborative effort between Metso and Cenibra; the companies have been working together for many years. When asked why they chose Metso, Ronaldo Ribeiro, automation specialist says, "This was a long-term process. Metso was selected because we have worked seriously during those years, established a partnership, prepared a consistent contract and most of our machinery and all control valves were from Metso. Metso knows our processes and this would help the advanced control implementation. It would be a smart decision, and it really was." Regarding the specific accomplishments of Steam Manager, he adds. "For steam management the target was to reduce costs. The possibility to reduce steam quantity released into the air was identified. Based on this opportunity Metso prepared some calculations which helped Cenibra to get a reduction in vented steam."

Figure 1 - Simplified control matrix for cenibra’s steam manager. the controlled variables (cvs) are regulated at their set-points by managing the manipulated variables (mvs) in the presence of disturbance variables, (dvs)

The first mill audit regarding advanced process control (APC) solutions was carried out in 2006. After that, the possible results and returns were calculated. In July 2008, the mill decided to order five APC controls, one of which was Steam Manager. Before the system was installed, Metso gathered data and studied process information concerning the mill's steam network. The operation model of the mill and its controls were studied to create a full-scale picture of the plant's performance level in terms of energy efficiency.

Figure 2 - The main operator display page of steam manager in the metso dna system shows the steam network layout with primary process data and control loops

Dynamic process, modeled control

And this legwork was well justified by the complexity and dynamics of the network. This advanced work helped to configure the structure of the multi-variable predictive (MPC) models, which are a cornerstone of Steam Manager. The fundamental objective of Steam Manager is to guarantee both steam quality and steam availability - not too little for the pulp mill processes and not so much that it has to be vented. Steam quality is ensured by regulating the pressures of high pressure, medium pressure and low pressure headers at their target values of 65, 13 and 4 kgf/cm2. By stabilizing and regulating the pressures, high-quality process steam is obtained. Steam availability is ensured by regulating steam balance of the steam network by ensuring that steam production of the boilers matches to steam consumption of the turbine-generators and the mill processes demanding process steam at any time instant.

Three recovery boilers produce most of the steam at the mill and the rest is produced by two power boilers burning biofuel. Oil burners for these power boilers are used at startups and at high load situations. In addition, there is an oil boiler available for steam outages. Two turbine-generators operate from the high-pressure header supplied by the five boilers. The biggest process steam consumers are two evaporators and two continuous digesters that use medium- pressure and low-pressure steam. Also, the recovery boilers require some process steam for their operations.

The Steam Manager controls many different unit operation and valves in order to balance supply and demand. Models take into account the interactions between several interrelated variables, manipulated variables (MVs) that are managed to achieve controlled variable (CV) targets in the presence of disturbance variables (DVs), which come from a variety of sources on the supply and demand side. Figure 1 shows a matrix that represents the MPC control structure at Cenibra.

The Steam Manager controls are configured in a metsoDNA system linked via OPC to the mill's existing DCS system, which then carries out the loop control commands. Figure 2 shows the main operator interface for the steam network.

Júlio Ribeiro, recovery line and utilities coordinator

Results from day one

Immediately after startup in May 2009, the Steam Manager results looked very promising and have been well documented over the following months. Steam Manager improved the network steam and energy balance management during normal production periods and, most importantly during disturbance periods. As shown in Fig.3, vented steam to the atmosphere has been reduced significantly.

Júlio Ribeiro, recovery line and utilities coordinator, sums up the results: "Steam Manager uses algorithms including multivariable control, as it coordinates multiple inputs, measurements and disturbances. The commissioning phase and software configuration involved a multidisciplinary team. The operational start-up was smooth. Results could be seen from the first day and the target of 90% reduction of blow-out steam was reached in three months."

This means 10,000 tonnes of steam monthly are not being discharged to the atmosphere, which is the energy equivalent of 715 tons/month of oil and 2,200 fewer tons of CO2.

Figure 3 - The main operator display page of steam manager in the metso dna system shows the steam network layout with primary process data and control loops

In addition, the high-pressure steam pressure is more consistent, Fig. 4. The stabilization of all steam pressures in the network - high, medium, and low - is the backbone of the Steam Manager concept. The lower pressure must be stabilized to provide steam at constant pressure to steam consumers. On the other hand, the high pressure must be stabilized as it is one of the main variables that are controlled by power boilers. If that is upset, the boiler load, and eventually the fuel consumption to the boiler is disturbed.

The effective implementation of the Steam Manager system required some new ways of thinking and changes in operating procedures. Júlio Ribeiro elaborates: "There was a change in the operating paradigm because the operators were used to doing it their way. Then some new concepts were introduced into operation. Therefore some adjustments were needed. Since the system proved to be reliable, the operators felt comfortable with the changes. It was a new tool and it had everyone's approval. At first they were a little skeptical about it, but soon they saw it brought benefits."

Figure 4 - The stability of high-pressure steam header supply has been improved significantly by steam manager

Process operator acceptance is one of the key objectives of any process management system since they have to work with it day-to-day. When the operators fully understand and believe in the way of operation, the results are sustained. Jairo Ferreira, recovery boiler operator, sums up his thoughts, which suggest a continuing belief in the control concept: "Since I came to the department, a lot of excess steam was being released. There was an awareness of it, but more drastic measures had to be taken. The process instability was a limiting factor and this became the most important goal of the Steam Manager project. This solution would help us to do what we could not do by ourselves. When the boiler burning rate increases, the plant gets more stable, and the energy distribution pattern is improved. What you need is to manage all that when the process undergoes changes. In the beginning, we were not sure that steam emissions could be reduced. Then, after a closer look at the system, we understood it better and we improved our process. Today, we have reached an unbelievable steam reduction level that exceeded our expectations."