ABB and good life - energy efficiency

ABB flowmeters recover lost revenues and promote energy efficiency
ABB flowmeters have enabled a top US university to cut steam losses in its generation plant and recover more than $1.25 million a year in lost revenues. The solution has also created a campus-wide awareness of the need for energy efficiency.

Pat Dillon, part of the VCU's instrumentation and electrical services team, examining a new ABB swirl flowmeter installed in one of the campus buildings.
The ABB flowmeters have reduced annual steam losses in the generation plant of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, Virginia, from 16 percent to 5 percent and enabled the plant to recover more than $1,275,000 a year in lost revenues.

The steam plant for the huge downtown campus generates steam for almost 60 buildings, including three hospitals, the governor’s mansion and a museum. Three identical boilers produce around 180,000 tons of steam a year.

During the 2006-07 fiscal season the plant generated almost 19,000 tons of steam but billed the various departments and building occupants for a little under 16,000 tons, a discrepancy of 16 percent.

Steam usage in each building was monitored by aging steam and condensate meters, which were no longer suitable for the task. After assessing the various alternative meters on the market, a leading flow control specialist recommended the installation of ABB’s new swirl flowmeters.

Most of the university buildings are old and lack the long steam runs required by many kinds of flowmeters. ABB swirl flowmeters, on the other hand, require uniquely short straight sections of pipe before and after the metering location.

They are highly accurate, have built-in temperature sensors, and automatically compute readings to indicate steam usage. These can either be taken manually or transmitted in real time to the site or building automation system.

To date about 40 of the campus buildings have been equipped with ABB swirl flowmeters. With around 20 or so buildings yet to be fitted, the steam plant is expected to earn well in excess of the $1.25 million in annual revenues recovered so far.

With university departments keen to minimize their utility costs and reduce their carbon footprint, being billed correctly has increased their awareness of the need for energy conservation.


ABB automation to control unique sand dune water filtration process
ABB is automating the entire production and distribution operations of a leading Netherlands water company with a uniquely eco-friendly production process that uses coastal sand dunes to purify river water into drinking water for 1.2 million people.

Based on ABB’s award-winning System 800xA Extended Automation platform, the solution will enable Dutch water utility Dunea to transform its aging, multiple-process automation systems into a single state-of-the-art system that will control and manage the utility’s entire water production and distribution operations from one central control room.


Dunea’s water production process is unique, utilizing sand filters, rain water and coastal sand dunes as a natural filter to create drinking water for more than one million people in the region around The Hague.

The solution is replacing the existing process automation systems at Dunea’s five production facilities. Previously, each facility had its own process automation system that required its own control room, its own staff of operators, its own hardware and software, and its own spare part strategy.

Replacing these decentralized systems with a single integrated operations-wide solution brings Dunea significant benefits, the most important of which is a standard and unified system of process control.

Dunea is one of the largest water utilities in the Netherlands, supplying 80 million cubic meters of drinking water a year to 1.2 million people in the area in and around The Hague, the third largest city in the Netherlands.

This solution will significantly improve the company's efficiency, reduce its operating and manning costs, and enhance the reliability of its production process to ensure Dunea’s customers receive a steady supply of safe, high-quality drinking water.

Dunea’s water production process is uniquely eco-friendly and thought to be the only process of its kind in the world. Water from a local river is pumped to an underground pumping station, where it is pre-purified by means of sand filters.

The water is transferred to one of three coastal sites where it is mixed with rain water and filtered naturally through the sand dunes for about two months to create ‘dune water.’This is then softened, filtered to remove sand grains and other particles, and stored in tanks ready for distribution throughout the water network.

"To make the drinking water process as efficient as possible, we are completely standardizing the process automation of all the production sites to the ABB 800xA automation system,” says Thijs Aanhane, operational manager for Dunea.

Dunea has developed its own software for the new operations-wide automation system. Known as Plenty®, the software enables Dunea to access the process data and image displays for any production facility at any time of day and from any of the company’s sites.

Operating manuals, control diagrams of pumps and valves, parameter lists, and other process data and material are also accessible the same way.

ABB (and companies that were bought by ABB) supplied the original automation systems in the 1980s and 1990s. The contract for a new solution was put out to tender, and subsequently awarded to ABB. The flexibility of the System 800xA platform to incorporate the Plenty concept and the competitive total cost of ownership of the solution were two of the reasons why ABB was selected.


Productivity gains at Arctic copper mine
High efficiency is a matter of survival for the Aitik copper mine in northern Sweden. The proportion of metal in the earth’s surface here is so low – less than 0.3 percent – that it can only be extracted profitably if the processes are highly automated.

A three-year, $790 million modernization of the entire operation, including new power and automation solutions from ABB, has enabled mine operator Boliden to double production capacity with just 10 percent more employees. The revamped mine was inaugurated by the King of Sweden on Aug. 31, 2010.

Located near Gällivare, in the arctic Lapland region of Sweden, the copper deposit at Aitik was discovered in the 1930s although mining only began in 1968 when technology was sufficiently advanced to profitably extract the metal. In 2006, with demand for copper running strong, Boliden decided to make the biggest investment in its history to increase output.

Aitik is Sweden’s largest mine and a global industry benchmark in mine efficiency.

As a result, Boliden can mine even lower-grade ore at the site, thereby increasing Aitik’s productive life until 2029.

ABB has played a pivotal role in the program, supplying products and systems worth some $84 million to power and automate the entire site.

At full capacity, the mine is capable of processing about 100,000 tons of ore every day. Huge digging machines chip away at the rock face and load massive trucks – whose wheels alone are 3.4 meters high – with more than 200 tons of ore at a time. The trucks deliver the ore to a crusher inside the pit where it is reduced to boulders about 30 cm in diameter and put on underground conveyors to a storage area on the surface.

From here, another conveyor carries the ore to the new concentrator plant several kilometers away, near the area where the waste slurry is pumped after the valuable minerals have been extracted.

Around 650 ABB high-efficiency motors, many of them equipped with variable speed drives, power the conveyors, crushers, pumps, fans, and process equipment to ensure minimal energy use and maximum process efficiency.

In the concentrator, two ABB gearless mill drives (GMDs) – the most powerful ever built – power two new mills that grind the ore to sand from which the copper can be extracted. At 22.5 megawatts, each GMD is as powerful as 280 passenger vehicles* and enable the mills to crush up to 2,200 tons of ore per hour each.

The entire site process – including the concentrator plant, conveyor systems and pumping stations – is controlled by ABB’s Extended Automation System 800xA. Boliden selected System 800xA as its group-wide process automation platform several years ago following extensive tests and comparisons with other automation systems.

An ABB gas-insulated substation feeds electricity from the grid to Aitik with minimal electrical losses and minimal space requirements, and a harmonics and power factor correction filter system ensures that Boliden can operate the powerful GMD system without distorting the supply network and incurring fines from the utility.

And last but not least, ABB low-voltage switchgear distributes the power across the entire site reliably and energy efficiently.


ABB takes industrial productivity to new heights
Award-winning ABB technology has improved productivity by 9 percent at a complex and energy-intensive industrial facility in Europe.

The improvements were made at Nordkalk’s Lohja limestone processing plant in Finland and are indicative of the huge gains in productivity that are being achieved with an award-winning ABB process control and optimization solution for industrial facilities, Expert Optimizer.


Nordkalk is the leading producer of high-quality limestone-based products in northern Europe. The company operates 20 sites in five countries. Lohja (above) in Finland is one of the largest. The site consists of an underground mine, crushing plant and lime kiln.

Expert Optimizer has successfully delivered substantial improvements in productivity and energy efficiency at more than 200 production facilities worldwide and was awarded the Global Fuels Award for ‘Most innovative technology for electrical energy efficiency’ in 2008.

Originally developed for the cement industry but now available for all process industries, Expert Optimizer coordinates the optimal operating parameters of the various parts of the process and immediately detects any deviations that occur.

Once the deviations have been detected Expert Optimizer is able to stabilize and re-optimize the process. It is also able to calculate optimal production schedules for the entire plant. Typical increases in productivity range from 3-10 percent.

ABB took over site-wide maintenance activities at Lohja in 2006 as part of an ABB Full Service® contract in which it undertook to improve productivity and reduce maintenance costs at the plant, one of the largest limestone processing facilities in northern Europe.

Drawing on its expertise as the world’s leading supplier of power, automation and optimization solutions for the cement industry, ABB was able to propose the installation of Expert Optimizer to help solve a production and fuel problem in the kiln, which is the heart of the lime-making process.

Prior to the installation of Expert Optimizer it had been difficult to determine the optimal operating point of the process as the kiln uses several different types of feed material, each with different properties. Expert Optimizer resolves this difficulty by finding the best operating conditions to maximize output and minimize fuel consumption for each type of feed.

The overall result was a 9 percent increase in production.

In a typical Full Service agreement ABB and the customer jointly agree on the targets to be achieved in areas like maintenance expenditure, plant availability, equipment reliability, energy efficiency and safety.

ABB has more than 150 Full Service agreements in operation in a broad spectrum of industries worldwide – from cement plants to petrochemical refineries, pulp and paper mills, oil and gas sites, steel mills, and consumer goods factories.


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