8 strategies for implementing profitable power and process integration

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The drive for decarbonization of mining, minerals, and metals production continues to lead to the electrification of processes. In the past, electrical power management and process automation systems were often designed, installed, and operated independently. However, digital transformation has enabled the cost-effective unification of these once-separate domains. Power and process integration is a catalyst for operational resilience and improved sustainability across the lifecycle of these plants.

Organizations that pursue initiatives to integrate power management and process automation often experience CapEx reductions of up to 20% and efficiency improvements (including decreased downtime). These organizations have also reduced energy consumption by implementing comprehensive power and process hardware and software integration strategies.

Power and process integration succeeds with a holistic approach

Achieving such positive sustainability and business results requires a disciplined approach accounting for multiple strategies working together. When initiating power and process consolidation projects, there are eight essential strategies to consider:

  1. Unified engineering and asset information – Unified engineering provides integration of conceptual Front End Engineering Design (FEED) and detailed design into an environment that handles all process simulation and engineering from a single data hub.

It further creates the plant’s digital twin asset– a 3D model of the physical plant equipment that can be utilized throughout its lifecycle for design, training, maintenance, and expansion, which helps:

    • Shorten project delivery time
    • Enhance engineering efficiency
    • Reduce construction costs
  1. System design optimization – Electrical distribution systems are often over-specified. Optimizing power and automation system design aligns equipment with expected power demands, including:
    • Start-ups
    • Shut-downs
    • Abnormal situations
    • Fast load shedding scenarios

Integrated power and process control also creates synergy between the electrical distribution and process automation systems. Long-term optimization benefits include reduced CapEx, OpEx, carbon emissions, and maintenance costs.

  1. Unified simulation – This process builds on digital twin technology by predicting power, process, and business performance. This 3D model combined with unified simulation becomes a “living” digital twin, possessing physical assets and performance characteristics. It enables virtual studies of process start-up and shutdown, control scheme design, control checkout, operator training, asset performance monitoring, and real-time optimization, which helps to:
    • Eliminate the need to rebuild models
    • Facilitate the training of operators
    • Monitor asset operation
    • Increase process reliability, energy efficiency, and sustainability
    • Reduce risk with model-based decision-making
  1. Unified project execution – Main automation and electrical contractors operate on projects as separate entities, adding to expenses, execution time, and project delay risks. Help avoid these issues by naming a Main Automation and Electrical Partner (MAEP) who collaborates with the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) firm in a broader design scope for the project, allowing for better coordination and integration of systems. This ultimately reduces risks, especially during plant commissioning.
  2. Unified power and process control systems – Two separate systems create redundancy in the control and monitoring infrastructure in multiple databases, additional engineering tools, different operator stations, hardwiring, and network components. By eliminating duplicative work efforts, converging power and process control systems drive operational and maintenance efficiency improvements, like boosting uptime and reducing costs. Electrical awareness at the start of significant loads Improves teamwork between power and control.
  3. Integrated asset performance management – Asset management is the diagnostic monitoring and maintenance of plant assets. An integrated asset performance management system can provide an asset-centric view of operations, enabling engineering and maintenance teams to collaborate and analyze issues that involve multiple equipment classes to help:
    • Increase production uptime
    • Extended equipment life
    • Streamline procurement process

An example of the synergy available is an integrated sequence of events containing electrical and process events that can be used to quickly determine incident root causes.

  1. Process energy optimization and sustainability – In traditional settings, operators often do not directly realize the impact their process decisions have on energy cost or overall sustainability. Effectively managing the interactions between process and energy usage is essential to mastering sustainability and financial performance. Using effective contracting, sustainable energy sources, and metric reporting, optimized energy management increases process efficiency by reducing energy used per output unit, thus reducing the overall carbon footprint. By combining power and process data, we can, for example, monitor the energy efficiency of an overland conveyor, identifying conditions such as running with no load or belt misalignment leading to excess power usage for the same tonnage.
  2. Value chain optimization and agility – Most approaches to value chain optimization results in significant performance gaps and lost opportunities for profit improvement. This makes timely interpretation of actual results challenging, further complicating planning. An integrated operations center (IOC) is a prime example of leveraging converging power and process technology to achieve value chain optimization. It unites two critical sources of real-time asset information: the predictive digital twin and current market conditions. These two inputs enable operators to drive timely optimal business and operating decisions. This process is enabled in the IOC, where both process and power are monitored and controlled holistically.

For more information

To learn more about how integrated digital power and process automation systems can enable a value chain strategy in your operation, download our new e-guide, “Eight Strategies to Drive Enterprise Profitability through Integrated Process Automation and Power Management.”

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