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Optimising processes for bio-diesel production

Optimising processes for bio-diesel production
Products4Automation, UK distributor for Progea Movicon SCADA, is highlighting the relevance of its SCADA product to ecological issues following a recent application regarding alternative fuels in Italy.

Italian bio-diesel leader Fox Petroli has optimised and expanded the production process at its Vasta Plant by investing in Progea Movicon SCADA. The company chose the package because it was quick to develop, offered great flexibility, and had a proven track record of reliability. The investment by Fox Petroli is part of the company's focus on developing new forms of fuel that provide greater protection to the environment. The latest result of this focus is a new bio-diesel, BIOFOX, an ecological fuel obtained from rapeseed oil, which reduces harmful emissions from car engines.

The overall automation, control and monitoring system for BIOFOX was developed by the ESEA Group, a specialist in factory automation solutions. It has been designed to monitor and supervise the whole plant, which is divided into nine process sectors corresponding to nine reactors that produce Bio-diesel, using a reaction process that begins with the main raw material: rapeseed oil. Due to the super-criticality of the plant a reliable and expandable solution was required - one that was quick to develop and integrate and easy to maintain. In addition, FOX also specified a redundant and mission-critical architecture, to ensure service and data storage continuity at all times. ESEA chose Movicon SCADA software, as the best solution to meet these client requirements.

By using the Movicon Supervisor's purposely designed graphical screen pages, operators can control and monitor all the operations and processes in bio-diesel production, from warehouse storage, refining and reactor processes to stockpiling of produced materials,  easily from the factory control room. Although an extremely complicated process, the operators are capable of supervising the whole system with maximum security and guaranteed continuity, thanks to the three redundant Movicon supervision stations, which are networked using Ethernet. 

The supervision system delivers simplified production recipe management to enable workers to easily identify and manage all the process working parameters, a further plant management improvement. It also provides sophisticated historical and analysis management that guarantees traceability (tracking) of each sector's process by recording data, not only of events, but also all of the production processes and parameters recorded during production time. The data recording, to an MS SQL Server database system, takes place at preset five-minute intervals, according to specific needs and process times. It relates to quantities of raw materials used (rapeseed oil and alcohol) and the final product quantities attained (bio-diesel and glycerol), generated from each of the reaction systems. 

Trending is also a major feature of the Movicon system, allowing the viewing and analysing of different time scales of the plant production. Graphical reproductions of production trends can be printed according to defined or expanded time ranges; or for the whole production period in general. In addition, recorded data can be displayed in reports and on production and consumption tables. For example, operators can view or print the total amounts of Bio-diesel produced or rapeseed and alcohol raw materials consumed by time range, batch or shift. Historically logged data can be displayed by the supervisor in Trend windows, providing fundamental feedback on how the plant performed, to enable setup parameters to be changed, if required, to optimise product quality and plant efficiency.

Before the plant was revamped, factory floor workers had to start each reactor manually, resulting in a series of problems which at that time could not be properly controlled and managed correctly by the company. This led to further inefficiency from continuous and repetitious downtimes and production delays. To complicate matters even further, maintenance staff often worked overtime trying to fix breakdowns, the causes of which were difficult to pinpoint, inevitably prolonging the already long production downtimes. Today, thanks to the newly adopted technology and Movicon, operators can easily run and manage the whole plant, with guided screens clearly showing all the process phases.
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