In addition to efficiency, reliability is now paramount for world class Smart Mills, and visibility to predictive diagnostics are a critical element within instrumentation and control. Also, improved environmental sustainability promises less waste with less water, plus efficient waste handling to reduce unwanted effluent.
A multi-faceted world
Complicating the scene is that these efforts have multiple facets, because most mills handle disparate processes for pulping, papermaking, chemical recovery/waste water treatment and power generation. Wringing the most out of each unit requires function-specific problem solving for optimized process control.
Pulp and paper represents about a $2.2 billion global market in process automation. New capacity is being added in rapidly-growing regions, including Latin America and Asia, while existing mills in such mature markets as the North America are, one by one, undergoing retrofitting to control costs.
Predictive maintenance, more control points, wireless bring big benefit
The scale is physically large when tree trunks are the raw material. Compared to general industry, mills typically have heavier and tougher equipment. As a result, predictive maintenance brings dramatic benefits because it pinpoints performance drifts before they become catastrophic breakdown. The result is greater uptime and longer equipment life than is possible with conventional approaches.
In addition, processes in the mill are seeing more and more field device and additional measurement points as part of retrofit projects, a welcome contrast to practices of the past, when, relatively speaking, level 1 did not receive its share of attention.
Wireless technology in particular has brought stranded assets under more direct management—most were stranded for a reason, ranging from physical distance from control rooms, to their mobile nature. In particular, wireless offers economically feasible ways to bring diagnostics for previously isolated equipment into plant-wide systems, where, again, predictive diagnostics enable engineering to see a situation before it develops into excessive downtime.
More control points bring more options for optimization, thanks to a full picture of the processes. At the same time, greenfield projects (among them the Arauco Nueva Aldea pulp mill) showcase the potential for highly optimized operations.
SmartProcess means millions
SmartProcess solutions tie this constellation of devices into a coherent system, offering literally millions of dollars in benefits from advanced process control (APC). Positive results range from reduced variability to optimized assets. Overall, predictive diagnostics, open standards, and advanced control bring, on average, a 2 percent overall operational improvement.