Operators at the filtration plant of Finnish metal producing company Terrafame lacked detailed information about the performance of its tower press filters. A local filtration specialist suggested its Smart Filtration technology which offers a more user-friendly, filter-specific picture.
Within the filtration plant, performance was only accessible on the screens mounted on individual filter control units. Usually, the performance information is limited to only overall production and it’s not easy to find out how individual filters are doing and even harder to check phases of each filtration cycle.
The control room is crowded with screens and data in SCADA is presented with complex graphs. It is extremely difficult and time consuming to get an idea about each filter’s performance. That is where the Flowrox Smart Filtration system stepped in. All data is now represented in a user-friendly way, clear and easy for anyone to understand.
The 3D environment model replicates what the plant really looks like, so it is easy to navigate and see what is going on in different parts of the process. The Flowrox system also monitors infeed characteristics and shows performance of the auxiliary equipment, such as slurry pumps, tanks and compressed air which are crucial parts in filter’s cycle.
The big picture One of the most important improvements of the Flowrox Smart Filtration system, is getting a picture of the complete filtration process in one glance. In addition, it is possible to view the filtration process in real time and remotely. All you need is a computer or any other handheld device with an internet connection. Through the online portal Flowrox Malibu, Terrafame personnel with user credentials can access the filtration information. The most important data is collected on just one screen.
For Juha Paavilainen, process engineer at Terrafame, this makes his job much easier. “Before, the information about the filtration process was hard to access and read. I didn’t have the time to try and get through a big amount of data. There are three tower press filters operating in Terrafame’s zinc production and I could only see what the overall production rate was.
Now, with Flowrox Smart Filtration, I can open my laptop in the morning and from one screen instantly see, how the filtration process is going. Within a couple of minutes, I know what is happening at the moment: what is the utilisation rate, productivity, cake weight, waiting times, average cycle duration, etc. If I wish, I can move the slider and observe the filtration process throughout the past 72 hours.”
The three tower press filters in Terrafame’s process are of the same size and model. From a technical point of view, they should perform in almost the same way. Flowrox analysis has shown this is not the case. Aimo Rautanen, product manager, Textiles & Elastomers at Flowrox, explains: “For some reason, we noticed more slurry is pumped into filter number 2. The productivity of the newest filter, which should be the highest, is for some reason the lowest.
In comparison to the other two, one of the filters has an extremely high-pressure peak, when pressing starts, which could result in premature breaking of diaphragms.” All of those discoveries were previously unknown to Terrafame. Paavilainen said: “I did not know the pressure peak was that high. This was an important find because if diaphragms break too soon, we face more downtime and higher costs.”
Significant savings Another example of how Flowrox has helped Terrafame to optimise the filtration process is by detecting extremely high consumption of compressed air by one of the filters. Drying with compressed air is a big expense, about 80% of all energy costs of the filtering process. “By comparing the use of compressed air with one filter to another, I discovered one of them is consuming much more energy. I lowered the compressed air consumption and cake moisture was not affected but the energy costs have significantly decreased,” explains Paavilainen.
With this valuable information, provided by Flowrox filtration specialists, Terrafame can now detect minor issues and use the data to prevent major failures. Simo Rounela, application manager, Digital Services at Flowrox, added: “We can remotely observe the filtration process and also get alarms if some values exceed the normal situation. Through the real-time online view, Flowrox can support Terrafame and help optimise the filtration process. The filtration specialists can remotely find malfunctions and advise how to eliminate them.”
Full data protection The Smart Filtration system is a turnkey solution and is completely safe. With Terrafame’s filters, Flowrox uses existing filter sensors to read the data. Distributed Control System (DCS) integration is not necessary, but it can be arranged on request. Flowrox is using its own internet connection to send the data to the Cloud. Smart Filtration is secured by SSL/TLS encryption; the same technology used in internet banking. Flowrox Smart Cube collects the data, and the system is configured as a read-only, so it is completely safe and cannot disturb Terrafame’s process control in any way.
Paavilainen concluded: “I am using Flowrox Smart Filtration on a daily basis. It gives me a fast insight to the filtration process and works extremely well. We have already requested from Flowrox to expand the service to other parts of the process.”