Aspen Plus Biomass Models for Sustainability

by , , | Mar 1, 2024 | Control & Safety Systems, Pulp & Paper

Jim Cahill

Jim Cahill

Chief Blogger, Social Marketing Leader

AspenTech’s Işıl Bal Helfrich and Emerson’s Ed Schodowski presented Case studies for using Aspen Plus in Biomass models for sustainability, renewables, and production efficiency at the 2024 Emerson Exchange Conference in Düsseldorf, Germany. Here is their presentation abstract:

Optimizing operational decisions in the biomass and pulp industries has become exponentially more challenging due to volatile and uncertain market conditions, sustainability requirements and ongoing loss of expertise. Key process performance attributes are often unable be directly measured and recorded directly, which limits the ability to take action to optimize performance. ISI B&F has undertaken multiple engagements with Latin American Renewable Biodiesel / Pulp client to develop sophisticated Models using Aspen Plus software.

They opened the presentation by sharing a case study of a Brazilian pulp & paper company that had evaluated biorefining opportunities through the simulation of Kraft processes, driving collaboration and open innovation by teaming with Emerson. A recent project focused on a digital twin to support operational decision-making and optimization in a world-class Kraft pulp production plant.

They cited a McKinsey study on digital transformation in pulp, paper and power, highlighting the next wave of industry disruption—digital and analytics as being the next level of disruption will enable improvements in:

  • Sustainability
  • Reliability
  • Margin Improvement and Production
  • Operator Performance and Safety

Critical challenges for pulp & paper manufacturers include improving reliability, increasing profitability, making operations safer, and increasing sustainability. Industrial software can play a vital role in tackling all these challenges.

Aspen Plus is simulation software used to address some of these challenges. Aspen Plus is the software used by the top chemical companies worldwide. Built on over 40 years of experience, it advances the performance of chemical processes using the simulation software for bulk chemicals, specialty chemicals, and pharmaceutical industries.

Its modeling technology enables optimization of throughput, product quality, and energy use in processes with batch, continuous, and mixed batch and continuous operations. The Aspen Plus capabilities would allow engineers to manage all types of chemical processes within a single environment with the option to use models in both dynamic and steady states. Leading electrolyte properties, patented polymer modeling capabilities, and solids models enable the software to help manufacturers simulate and optimize key industrial and novel processes across industries (chemicals, pulp & paper, metals & mining, bioprocesses, life sciences, etc.)

For this biomass application, Aspen Plus helps to:

  • Improve batch processes
  • Optimize polymer processes and solids systems
  • Improve distillation design and revamp processes
  • Optimize with custom equipment
  • Conduct environmental & safety analyses
  • Simultaneously assess economics and energy
  • Improve operational decisions by connecting to real-time data
Aspen Plus with embedded AI and integrated economic, energy & emissions analysis for optimization in wide range of industries & new sustainability processes

Aspen Plus with embedded AI and integrated economic, energy & emissions analysis for optimization in a wide range of industries & new sustainability processes.

These AspenTech plant digital twin solutions provide insights into the operations and help optimize the processes for the new conditions, ensuring that operations are stable and that the safety of the process is being taken care of. Process engineers can use the same plant digital twin to predict potential operational issues and evaluate alternative corrective actions by simulating each, making informed decisions to execute operations. Key uses for the digital twins include process insights during new operating conditions, equipment performance monitoring, and process optimization to minimize energy consumption.

Digital twins enable improvements in uptime and production rates by linking proven engineering models to plant data. The project begins by preparing deployment models online by connecting and validating models with plant historians without leaving the Aspen Plus simulation environment. Once the models are online, staff can make better operating decisions for columns, exchangers, and rotating equipment by using models online.

Four simulation use cases include product/operations key performance indicators (KPIs) & unique processes, operations optimization, asset-wide modeling/optimization, and actual equipment performance.

They shared one example of an energy optimization in a black liquor multiple-effect evaporator. The manufacturer was challenged with decreasing steam economy after a 20% increase in weak black liquor throughput—a water drop vaporized per kilogram of steam used. Causes and their impact on critical parameters and ways to improve efficiency and reduce energy consumption were evaluated.

Using the Aspen Plus model, the project team performed property regression using experimental data, developed the appropriate process models to represent equipment, and validated it against plant data. The model was used to study the effect of various input parameters on the final solids’ concentration after evaporation.

Ed cited another example of starting with a basic low-fidelity model of the entire mill to understand the basic material and energy flows. Next, they went deeper into the key units with greater model fidelity to optimize energy usage. They next went with detailed high-fidelity models around the equipment to optimize all operations.

Visit the Aspen Plus section on the AspenTech site for more information on the full capabilities of this simulation platform.

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