February 2022

16 | Plant & Works Engineering www.pwemag.co.uk February 2022 Maintenance Matters Focus on: Maintenance 4.0 B y making industrial plants more adaptive, AI can help save the planet. You have heard the statistics again- and-again. Greenhouse gas concentrations are at their highest levels in three million years and continue to rise. The planet is now 1.2°C warmer than it was in the late 1800s. The last decade was the warmest on record. Conservation and renewable energy can help. But no matter how green the Scandinavian countries and others go, they will not save the planet. Their efforts are just not going to be enough. There is no silver bullet. New digital solutions can help us meet the challenge, though. With fossil fuel production to decline by roughly 6% per year between 2021 and 2030, for example, imagine if we could achieve a 6% reduction in emissions from every power, oil and gas, glass, chemical, cement, and aluminium plant on the planet. AI can do this. How? Plants are designed to operate within a certain range for optimal efficiency. They are supposed to minimise fuel burn and emissions release of NOx, SOx, methane, etc. Unfortunately, however, no battle plan survives the first contact with the enemy. The same is true in a plant. Plants run at a broad range of variabilities that typically are less than optimal. Plant controller systems based on static models are not responsive enough to adapt to changes and prescribe actions to insure optimal outcomes. As a result, set points are adjusted every now and then by operators who hunt for good conditions. This routine opens up tremendous opportunities for improvement that only AI can bring through multivariate analysis of current operating conditions and constant open and closed loop triggers that keep plants running at maximum efficiency while using less energy and producing less pollutants. By harnessing the huge amount of information coming from sensors in plants and equipment, AI-based optimisers sitting on top of plant controllers can turn tens of thousands of plants around the world into “adaptive” facilities that consistently produce high throughput, maximise yield, lower energy usage, lower emissions, and minimise waste of precious resources like water. Ageing equipment also significantly impacts energy consumption and environmental performance. AI-driven predictive models can assess machine health over time, provide real- time monitoring and prescriptions, and recommend predictive maintenance for By making industrial plants more adaptive, AI can help save the planet says Dominic Gallello*, who looks at how new digital solutions can meet the challenge. Can factory and plant AI help save the planet?