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An intelligent solution for energy optimization in the industry

For companies in the process industry, optimizing the power usage of an existing plant is a promising approach, since this reduces operating costs while also significantly boosting plant efficiency. But for this to work, a clear understanding of the current power consumption must first be gained. Together with HOCHHUTH we have jointly developed an effective solution that addresses this need and thus allows customers to optimize their plants’ energy consumption.

Collecting operational and energy data from plants is the basis for the intelligent management and effective optimization of energy consumption. The new solution from Bilfinger and HOCHHUTH uses metering devices to supply the necessary data to a platform for summary evaluation and analysis.

These metering devices are provided by HOCHHUTH, along with the MESSDAS 4.0 energy-management system, which connects and coordinates the devices via a central server and merges the necessary data. Subsequently, the ENERDATA module can be used to perform detailed analyses and to create energy settlements by cost center. The energy management system is ISO 50001 compliant and compatible with existing sensor structures. Furthermore, it is possible to integrate existing metering devices and control systems. The cloud-based platform “Bilfinger Connected Asset Performance” (BCAP) takes over the data via a programming interface (API) in order to fully evaluate them and to prepare and format them for analysis and presentation.

Thanks to this energy-data readout solution from HOCHHUTH and Bilfinger, a plant’s energy consumption becomes transparent and thus actively controllable. This in turn allows potential cost-savings to be identified. Customers are integrated into the process at all times, since the aim is to enable them to cull their own information from the data as well, e.g. by means of Sankey diagrams.

A fruitful partnership

In 2019, the two companies implemented a pilot project at Münzing Chemie, a chemical company in Heilbronn, Germany. While Bilfinger was responsible for setting up digital twins for the plants, HOCHHUTH contributed the MESSDAS 4.0 energy-management system to serve as a data source. This project inspired Bilfinger and HOCHHUTH to team up for further work of this nature and thus to provide great benefit to their customers.

That was how the concept of a fixed partnership was formed, in which the two enterprises complement each other’s strengths. Both of them bring to the table many years of experience gained across the globe, wide-ranging expertise and a workforce of highly qualified engineers and technicians. While HOCHHUTH contributes extensive competence in capturing energy data, Bilfinger Digital Next is responsible for merging additional data sources and performing the more in-depth data evaluations, also with the aid of machine-learning tools. The symbiosis between the two partners creates a great deal of added value for customers, given the effectiveness of analyzing energy data in conjunction with process and maintenance data.

Another example of the synergetic collaboration is the joint project successfully completed at Münzing Chemie's plant in Elsteraue in March 2020. Energy and production data were merged with one another. As a result, KPIs such as “energy consumption per production volume” are now automatically generated and displayed in compressed form on digital dashboards. This greatly simplifies the initial task of preparing and formatting information and its analysis that personnel responsible for production, controlling and management must perform.

The database generated opens the door to create algorithms for a more in-depth, second-stage analysis, e.g. of consumption levels at start-up. In this way, customers are able to reduce energy costs without any changes to productivity. Bilfinger Digital Next has already developed so-called “virtual sensors,” i.e. algorithms that use multiple process parameters as a basis for calculating additional, new parameters. This allows processes to be controlled with greater precision, whereby warnings and action recommendations can be issued to plant operators or other competent staff. The process can be kept running closer to the optimum – which can be flexibly defined – under all conditions. Peak load consumption during start-up procedures can be anticipated, evaluated and avoided, for example. Once operations shift into continuous, stationary mode, other process variables can be focused on.

Sequence of the project

The first step is to determine the customer's actual situation. This includes performing a cost-benefit analysis for the envisioned energy optimization, whereby the Bilfinger experts identify specific application requirements to increase the potential benefits. In parallel, HOCHHUTH examines how data can be collected on site. A team of engineers and IT specialists draws up a project plan and calculates the budget. In the event of a positive business case, HOCHHUTH sets up MESSDAS 4.0 at the customer's premises. This includes integrating the sensors on the software side along with their hookup, configuration and testing, followed by data configuration and storage on the server structure. Bilfinger Digital Next then begins analyzing and visualizing the energy consumption of the respective plant using the BCAP platform. In the process, a team of consultants and data scientists oversees the project.

These experts do not necessarily have to be on site during these project phases, however, neither during the server setup by HOCHHUTH nor during the conceptual design and implementation by Bilfinger Digital Next. Many activities now can be carried out remotely – which translates into a minimal workload for the customer. Production and work processes are usually unaffected by these activities and the project normally takes about three months to complete. Targeted customer service is provided in a subsequent stage.

How customers benefit

Bilfinger and HOCHHUTH have created a 360° solution for industrial energy management. Implementation is time-efficient and can be flexibly adapted to any customer's circumstances. Most customers are able to recoup their investment within one year. An efficiency increase of two to three percent and a savings potential of three to five percent are achievable. The extended analysis of data opens up new possibilities that customers could not cost-effectively achieve using their own resources, if at all. Even smaller companies are now able to put their own intelligent evaluation, prediction and recommendation models in place. Presenting the information on the BCAP platform in bundled fashion also makes it easy and intuitive to use. Forecasts of energy price developments or supply chains can be integrated, for example. Production planning has acquired an entirely new dimension, whereby customers can now tap the resulting information themselves and integrate it into their workflows.

Future plans

“Creating the best possible solutions for the acquisition, visualization, analysis, control and regulation of your energy and process data is our mission,” explains Peter Hochhuth, Managing Director of HOCHHUTH. Bilfinger and HOCHHUTH continually are enhancing their all-in-one solution. This means that customers will soon be able to make even better use of the operating and energy data they collect. Plant operators, for example, will automatically receive recommendations on how to control their plants and workflows in an energy-efficient manner. Plans are already in place to use not only individual plants, but entire production lines and plant complexes as a consolidated source for future data collection. Steering and control processes that were previously considered too complex will become feasible in the future.

Author: Martin Bergmann, Lead Product Manager, Bilfinger Digital Next GmbH