South African process and operations management solutions provider BluESP is introducing Model Predictive Control, a form of advanced process control technology, with applications to improve plant efficiency in several industries, including smelting and minerals processing.
BluESP’s parent company, process optimising software supplier Aspentech, is a global provider of advanced process control systems, which enable companies to monitor and control industrial plants on a minute-by-minute basis. Using this software thus allows companies to predict and manage potential problems in their processes, and improve the efficiency of operations to a much greater degree than has previously been possible through hourly monitoring by human operators.
BluESP chief engineer Dr Kevin Brooks explains that, while advanced process control systems have become standard in the chemicals processing and oil refining industries, BluESP has made breakthroughs by applying this technology to above-ground mining in the development of its Model Predictive Control software.
Brooks notes that the software is ideally suited to the smelting and minerals processing industries, where it is imperative that careful control be maintained over the running of high-tem- perature equipment. He highlights that the online control technology can improve the management of these processes in several ways, such as ensuring that high-temperature opera- tions are performed safely, as well as monitoring and adjusting the process parameters to ensure that output reliability is increased and fuel consumption is improved. The system can also assist in managing harmful emissions generated by these processes.
To tailor this software to a company’s needs, BluESP initially performs tests that are used to develop mathematical models of the plant. These models are then used in the design of software to resolve the control issues that arise in the model, allowing for predictive control of the plant.
Once the software is installed, it monitors a plant’s operations continuously, according to the specifications that have been set. The technology is configured with an interface that can produce various alarms and alerts as needed. These are managed by operators who are trained to work with the system.
“The whole point of this system, however, is that operators will get fewer alerts than from a more basic system, which enables them to channel their time and expertise to other parts of the plant,” Brooks explains.
He notes that, while the software is best suited to continuous operation, the Model Predictive Control solution has varied app- lication and can be configured to suit numerous industries and processes. Typically, this tech- nology can produce a cost saving of between 5% and 10% by enhancing plant efficiency.
BluESP has installed this software at operations owned by mining companies, such as platinum producer Anglo American Platinum, platinum miner Lonmin and integrated commodity producer Glencore, enabling them to significantly increase control over processes such as milling, flotation, crystallisation, evaporation and leaching.