A digitized, condition-based maintenance approach boosts operational efficiencies for energy recovery plant

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Businesses across the globe are increasing their commitment and investment in circularity. However, most recognize that raw materials will become more difficult and expensive to access in the future, and the demand for materials will outpace supply projections by a wide margin. The solution to this challenge lies in implementing new-generation services, supporting more circular solutions, and introducing processes, like condition based maintenance, that contribute to cost control and reduced carbon emissions.

Integrating true circularity into core business processes is a relatively new concept for many organizations. However, many people, in their personal lives, already regularly practice circularity. Sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling are all examples of circularity that resonate with most people.

A Schneider Electric worker wearing a green safety vest stands in front of the Azalys Suez building holding a tablet.
Condition based maintenance enables Azalys Suez to maintain the uptime required for its waste management and energy recovery operations.

Circularity in action: The Azalys Suez energy recovery plant

Standing at the crossroads of these two worlds is the unique operation of the Azalys Suez energy recovery plant – a perfect example of a circularity-driven business that converts household waste products into energy. Serving an area inhabited by almost 300,000 people just northeast of Paris, France, the Azalys Suez, one of several corporate critical facilities, processes 125,000 metric tons of household waste while producing 40 GWh of electricity annually. The plant incinerates household waste at the rate of eight tons per hour. It then transforms the generated heat into steam, which is in turn converted by a turbo alternator into energy. The plant uses only one-third of that energy and sells the rest to the local power grid operator Enedis.

A fraction of the household waste is completely incombustible despite being cooked in a giant furnace at 1000 degrees C. This waste is called bottom ash. The ash must undergo special operations, including screening and heavy metal removal. The minerals extracted are then used in road engineering materials (often as sub-layers or embankments) and serve as a natural economic and environmental alternative to quarry aggregates, which are increasingly rare and expensive. Ferrous metals are also extracted to be used by the steel industry and remelted to create new products. In effect, 95% of materials from combustion are recovered and recycled.

The facility’s control system helps make the plant one of the cleanest sites in Europe. Fumes are filtered before being released into the atmosphere, with sensors constantly measuring emissions to ensure all environmental regulations are met.

Condition based maintenance plays a critical role in uptime

As both a waste collector and an energy producer, the availability of Azalys plant critical facilities and the safety of the electrical equipment that runs the plant are crucial to its mission. To be completely effective, the plant must run 24x7x365, working day and night, with no pause. Therefore, properly maintaining critical physical infrastructure components, such as electrical components, is essential to ensuring plant uptime. 

When it came time to modernize its electrical infrastructure, the Azalys staff turned to their long-time power system partner Schneider Electric. The modernization initiative included the upgrade of a high-voltage substation. The work involved replacing obsolete protection relays and increasing power capacity. The upgrade installation processes had to be swift to enable local communities to continue accessing waste treatment and energy recovery without interruption.

With Schneider Electric services experts auditing and preparing the site, the operation took fewer than four days to complete. In addition, it was synchronized with the annual production shutdown, minimizing the plant’s downtime.

The new equipment was also configured to enable condition based maintenance. This digitized service approach reduces on-site maintenance activities by performing maintenance at the right time, only when needed, while minimizing unplanned downtime and extending asset lifespan.

Using the condition-based maintenance approach, new sensor-equipped switchgear served to provide temperature and humidity measurements within the switchgear modules. This allows for data collection and consolidation using the Schneider Electric EcoStruxure platform. Schneider Electric’s Connected Service Hub experts then analyze and interpret that data.

The Hub experts issue substation data reports, alerts, and maintenance recommendations via the mySchneider digital platform as part of their customer support process. This use of data helps implement preventive and predictive maintenance to improve the uptime and safety of the installation. Using a condition based maintenance approach, Azalys Suez ensures the plant’s waste treatment and energy production services continuity.

For more information

To learn more about how Schneider Electric can offer you new decarbonization perspectives, visit our next-generation services website.

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