Industrials Lesson 3 of 4: How can Smart Instruments Help Us with Process-related Challenges

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Industrials Lesson 3 of 4: How can Smart Instruments Help Us with Process-related Challenges

Lesson Script

1. Monitoring of the process is limited

Many of the available sensors and analytical instruments that could be used in biogas plants are considered expensive, unreliable, difficult to maintain, and/or complicated to use. For this reason, plants are reluctant to invest. This leads to very limited available process information and, as a consequence, the process is operated in an inefficient and unproductive way.

2. There is resistance to change an established monitoring process

The operation of most biogas plants today is performed based on individual experience and old habits. The common perception is that any change could risk the stability of the process, which could in turn be very costly for the biogas plant. Therefore there is little interest in making changes the process operation.

3. Process data is not integrated

Biogas plants are complex institutions. Their operation involves several different – yet interconnected – process units. In order to reach optimal overall performance, we need to clearly understand how they work together.

However, a few things stand in the way of our current understanding. The process data that is monitored today is too limited in scope, and is also not utilised properly. We observe a lack of systematic data analysis for process diagnosis. In addition to this, the sensor signals are often displayed individually and locally at the plant. This limits the integration between off-line analysis data (such as feedstock data) and process information. As a consequence, there is a high chance that operational decisions are made based on a single signal or on a very recent trend, without considering all the different parameters that could have a negative effect on the overall performance.

4. Process data need to be integrated in a “Smart data grid”

A key to operating biogas plants efficiently is to base operation decisions on all available parameters, from both off-line analysis and on-line process monitoring. For this to be possible we need to better integrate, present and interpret all the available key process data.

5. Operators’ knowledge is sometimes limited

Because process information is so poorly available, and because the general knowledge of the AD process is often insufficient, many operators lack interest and skill – which is problematic for further development of the operations.

Bringing the AD sector to the next level requires putting much more focus on process operation via better process data, integration and sharing of this data between process operators.

So how can this be done?