ABB and good life - breakthroughs

ABB marine technology helps open new super seaway between Europe and Asia
The voyage between the port of Murmansk and Shanghai, China, was completed on October 17th by the Monchegorsk, one of a fleet of five ice-class container ships owned by Norilsk Nickel, one of the world’s largest mining and metals companies.

Norilsk Nickel has extensive mining and metallurgical operations in Arctic Russia, and some of its most important markets are in China and Southeast Asia. Prior to the Monchegorsk’s historic journey, vessels crossing the frozen waters of the Northern Sea Route had to travel in convoys and needed the costly assistance of icebreakers. They also faced a 60-65 day journey home via the Indian Ocean, Suez Canal and northern Europe.

Now the journey time between Dudinka and Shanghai has been cut to 19-20 days, while the need for icebreaker-escorted convoys and the long return route via the Suez Canal has been eliminated, saving time, energy consumption, shipping costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

The secret behind this achievement is a combination of ABB’s Azipod azimuthing electric propulsion system and Aker Arctic’s double-acting ship (DAS) concept, which gives the container ships the capability of an icebreaking vessel and enables them to operate at high levels of efficiency.

Azipod and DAS make it possible for Norilsk Nickel’s five container ships to sail bow first in open water and stern first in thick and heavily ridged ice.

They can cut through 1.7 meters of level ice and more than 10 meters of ridged ice with considerably less installed power (13 megawatts) and lower energy consumption than conventional diesel-driven vessels of the same weight and hull design.

This hull strength and Azipod’s unique ability to rotate the vessel 360 degrees with full torque and thrust in any direction creates the ultimate solution for icebreakers and icebreaking vessels.

Bow-first has long been the preferred method for vessels negotiating ice. ABB and Aker extended the concept to freighters a decade ago with the Tempera and Mastera, the world’s first double acting oil tankers with icebreaking capability. Now with the Norilsk Nickel fleet of container ships, ABB and Aker have successfully extended the concept to yet another shipping application.

ABB has been delivering electric propulsion systems for icegoing vessels for more than 70 years. To date some 85 icegoing vessels have been equipped with ABB electric propulsion systems, including 26 with Azipod. Operating data shows that Azipod-propelled icegoing vessels have accumulated around one million operating hours with 99.77 percent availability and zero damage from ice.

Processing potash from the Dead Sea
The upgrades are based on ABB’s flagship automation platform, Extended Automation System 800xA, and are part of a comprehensive modernization and expansion project at Arab Potash Company’s (APC) extensive potash processing and warehousing facilities in Jordan.

APC is one of the world’s major suppliers of potash, a vital plant and crop nutrient used in agricultural fertilizer all over the world. The company’s vast salt ponds extend over 112 at the southern end of the Dead Sea, and its potash refinery at Safi on the banks of this hypersaline mineral-rich lake is capable of producing 2,500,000 tons.

Processing potash from saltwater is a long and complex process that takes around 12 months to complete. The highly saline water in the APC salt ponds is slowly evaporated by the heat of the sun to produce a mineral-rich slurry called carnallite, which is then processed into potash at the Safi refinery.

APC recently completed a large modernization and expansion project at Safi to enhance the efficiency of the refining process and boost capacity by 25 percent from 2 million tons to 2.5 million tons a year. The existing hot leach and cold crystallization plants were upgraded and a second cold crystallization plant was built.

The three plants are the heart of the refinery. There, the carnallite is dewatered, crystallized, leached, dried, and screened into three grades of potash. Each stage of the refining process at the new plant is controlled and optimized by a state-of-the-art System 800xA distributed control system that monitors and manages process information from 3,500 input/output channels. The project at Safi follows the recent modernization and expansion of APC’s warehousing facilities at Aqaba by the Red Sea, where the potash is stored, ready for loading onto bulk carriers for shipment to markets all over the world.

ABB provided an electrical, control and instrumentation package to help boost capacity at Aqaba and make the storage and loading process faster and more efficient. The long conveyor system, three stackers and two reclaimers are now controlled by a System 800xA distributed control system that helps deliver a loaded product of consistent quality..

As a result of the two System 800xA automation systems at Safi and Aqaba and the ongoing modernization of existing facilities APC will have a leading-edge process automation system that integrates all automation functions at the sites into a single engineering and operations environment that enables all facilities to operate more efficiently and with considerable cost savings.

ABB robotics makes wind turbine manufacturing more efficient
Few mechanical components are subjected to the same continuous levels of stress and environmental attack as wind turbine rotor blades.

Each of the three blades on a turbine can be up to 70 meters long, 5 meters wide at the hub and weigh around 15 tons. In strong winds the blade tips can spin through the air at speeds of up to 320 km/h, exerting huge pressure on the nacelle and tower with each rotation. And in offshore environments the effects of salt, sand, spray and ice can be devastating.

To protect the blades from mechanical stress and moisture penetration they require a special surface coating that has to be perfectly applied with micrometer precision at the specified thickness and smoothness. Poor finishing will lead to surface fatigue, blade degradation and reduced turbine output. The cost and logistical complexity of repairing or replacing a rotor blade, especially at sea, is huge.

To minimize these risks ABB has developed a fully automated robot-based concept that applies the coating with micrometer precision while sharply reducing the paint shop’s energy and paint consumption. The concept is available in either a stationary or mobile variant, to meet the needs of both large-scale and smaller scale manufacturers.

In the stationary option, two IRB 5400 paint robots inside the painting booth move on horizontal rails alongside the blade, which remains stationary in the booth. In the mobile variant, the entire paint booth itself (called a portal) moves down a giant blade; paint robots fixed to the portal spray the surface of the blade. Conventional paint shops can account for as much as half the energy consumption of a production facility, because they require vast quantities of air that has to be heated, circulated and extracted as frequently as once an hour to remove the chemicals and prevent explosive gases from forming.

The ABB solution, on the other hand, combines a highly compact footprint with a uniquely energy-efficient ventilation system that extracts the chemicals and recycles 95 percent of the air, thus reducing energy consumption to a minimum.

ABB initially developed the stationary variant for one of the world’s leading wind turbine manufacturers, and it has been successfully painting blades up to 50 meters long at the company’s manufacturing facilities in Europe.

Building on the success of the concept, ABB has since developed a mobile portal-based variant that can paint even longer rotor blades of 80 meters or more in length. The portal is self-contained with all process equipment onboard, and has a remarkable productivity rate, about four times that of a manual paint shop.

The portal was singled out earlier this year for one of the world’s most prestigious robotics awards, and is already generating interest in other paint applications, including aircraft fuselages and wings, railway rolling stock and other large single-structure components.

ABB technology to search for signs of life on Mars
The interferometer is the central component of a satellite-borne instrument called MATMOS that will search the Martian atmosphere for methane and other trace gases that will help answer the question: Is there life on Mars?

MATMOS (Mars atmospheric trace molecule occulatation spectrometer) is part of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, a satellite which is to be launched in 2016 in the first mission of a joint space program of the European and United States space agencies (ESA and NASA) to investigate the Martian environment and search for signs of life.

The first mission, which is to be launched in 2016, comprises the orbiter and an entry, descent and landing demonstrator that will analyze the environment at the landing site as well as its own performance during the descent. The second mission, in 2018, will consist of two rovers (roaming vehicles) that will land at the same site, collect samples from target destinations, and analyze the mineralogy. Once processed, the data will be transmitted back to earth via an orbiter relay satellite.

One of the most promising indicators of the past or present existence of life is methane, which can be produced either biogenically by dead or living organisms, or geologically by volcanoes or the oxidization of iron. The task of the ABB spatial interferometer is to produce a sensitive survey of the Mars atmosphere: detect, and measure the abundance of methane and other gases as the satellite passes through the Martian atmosphere on its orbit.

The ABB interferometer enables phenomenal sensitivity: MATMOS will provide measurements of the concentration of different chemicals and gases with a precision down to a few parts per trillion.

ABB's interferometer was the natural choice for this type of mission. Its design is based largely on another ABB instrument, ACE-FTS, that is currently currently achieving some remarkable results as the principal payload onboard the Canadian satellite SCISAT-1.

ACE-FTS is measuring the chemical constituents of the earth's atmosphere and collecting data on the depletion of the ozone layer over Canada and the Arctic. To date it has provided data for more than 200 scientific papers, measured 12 chemicals that have never previously been detected by satellite, and has been operating faultlessly since 2003, several years longer than originally expected.

MATMOS is a collaboration between NASA, the California Institute of Technology/JPL, and the Canadian Space Agency. ABB was selected by the Canadian Space Agency and is the prime contractor for the CSA's contribution to the project.

ABB ( is a leader in power and automation technologies that enable utility and industry customers to improve their performance while lowering environmental impact. The ABB Group of companies operates in around 100 countries and employs about 124,000 people.

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