Using advanced process control (APC) technology ensures relatively low costs for various industry applications, says specialists in process and operations management solutions BluESP.
As an instrumentation and control technology, APC optimises the performance of process units to improve profitability of process plants, using software techniques.
“APC technology is designed to allow for the optimised operation, control and automation requirements for a process plant.” says BluESP chief engineer Dr Kevin Brooks.
He notes that using cost-efficient software is the correct option in difficult times because it is cheaper to buy a computer program than starting a new mine or buying a new mill, as the equipment required is expensive.
Common implementations of APC include primary mills, where grind improvement is increased to between 3% and 5%, which allows for 20% savings on electricity consumption and improves mill stability.
“It is also used in applications, such as evaporators, secondary mills, coal-fired boilers, hydrochloric acid recovery plants, sulphur dioxide removal plants, cooling water temperature, flash dryers, batch temperature control, filters, flotation grade controllers and autoclaves,” explains Brooks.
He indicates that the company starts any APC project with a profit improvement study and functional design specification that determines return on investment and defines the business case for implementation. This business case makes it easy for clients to motivate proceeding with the project. After the project completion, BluESP conducts a post audit to quantify benefits. These show that the economic targets on which the project was justified
are either reached or exceeded.
Moreover, BluESP is working on above-ground projects in the mining industry for platinum producer Anglo American Platinum, platinum group metals producer Lonmin and minerals exploration company First Quantum Minerals.
Brooks explains that, when applying the APC technology for mining operations, the company uses experiments to develop models for the mining plants. Once the model is designed, it can be used to predict the future conditions of the plant, which the technology will be able to control accordingly. The conditions that can be predicted and controlled include temperatures, pressures, the flow rate and, in some cases, the concentration of metals.
“We are confident that the work we are doing in the mining industry is assisting in turning around an industry that is currently in trouble,” he concludes.