A step towards a carbon neutral tomorrow – Savon Voima invests in biofuel quality testing equipment at Iisalmi power plant
Savon Voima invests in automatic sampling equipment at Iisalmi power plant. A sampling robot will automatically take samples directly from trucks carrying biomass before unloading. Sampling plays an important role in determining the quality of the biomass to be burned. Knowing the exact quality per load improves the energy efficiency of the power plant by optimizing the logistics and combustion process. This investment is one step towards Savon Voima’s carbon neutrality target. The sampler is scheduled to be in operation in 2023 and will be supplied by Prometec Tools Oy of Kajaani.
“We have found Prometec’s sampler to be a very effective solution in Joensuu, from where we have a good experience over several years. This positive experience and good results helped us a lot in making the investment decision in Iisalmi,” says Kari Anttonen, Production Manager at Savon Voima.
“For us, safety at work is also an important part of our values, and by automating the sampling process, we can secure the working safety of our drivers and make our fuel quality control process more efficient,” Anttonen continues.
“Our cooperation with Savon Voima has already started in 2017, when we delivered the automated sampling equipment to the Joensuu power plant,” says Juha Huotari, CEO of Prometec, and continues, “The continuation of our cooperation and the additional investments are proof that Savon Voima has found Q-Robot and the sample handling equipment useful and that the company wants to invest in the quality of its fuel and thus in the sustainable use of biomass.
The automated sampler is expected to bring efficiency to the use of biomass in Iisalmi by increasing knowledge of the material being burned.
– We want to contribute to the well-being of the region and provide sustainable energy services to our customers. The investment in the automatic sampler will provide us with valuable information on biomass, which will enable us to optimize our processes and use biomass efficiently and sustainably,” says Anttonen.
Prometec Tools Oy is a Finnish technology company established in 2015, specializing in the production of biomass quality control equipment and services. Prometec currently operates in four countries and its automated sampling equipment collects samples from more than 65,000 trucks and 12,000 railcars every year. Prometec’s main product is the Q-Robot automatic sampler.
Savon Voima Oyj is an energy group offering a wide range of energy services and the best-known energy brand in Eastern Finland. Our goal is to be fully carbon neutral by 2030. The Savon Voima Group consists of the parent company Savon Voima Oyj and its subsidiaries Savon Voima Verkko Oy and Savon Voima Joensuu Oy. The Group is wholly owned by Savon Energiaholding Oy, which is owned by 20 municipalities in the area of operations. The Group’s business activities include electricity transmission, electricity generation and district heating, as well as customer services for energy operators. The group’s turnover in 2021 was approximately EUR 229 million and it employs approximately 210 people.
Prometec, the biomass quality control company from Finland, is delivering a comprehensive sampling solution to Fjernvarme Fyn’s site at Odense. This large biomass project will be fully commissioned in 2023, and Prometec’s fully automatized sampling solution will obtain real-time information from each biomass load to optimize energy efficiency and help improve safety at work.
The sampling solution will be installed in the sampling building at Odense. The sampler collects representative samples directly from each biomass delivery and provides real-time moisture information from each load before the truck leaves the sampling station. Prometec’s patented Q-Robot is equipped with an innovative technology measuring device that measures the moisture content of the sample as soon as the sampling is completed. The moisture data is usually used as the basis for the fuel load payments. In addition, a fully automatic bagging system has been integrated into this sampling solution to bag the samples taken by the Q-Robot for laboratory analysis. This comprehensive sampling solution is the first of its kind to be fully automated, including sample handling and moisture measurement, which significantly reduces the amount of laborious laboratory work which saves time and money.
“Moisture information is vital for power plants to optimize their combustion processes and know exactly how much energy has been delivered to their sites,” said Juha Huotari, Prometec CEO.
“We are committed to sustainability and work safety, and technological solutions are essentialMore information about biomass material means that we can operate in a more energy efficient way, ” stated Thomas Knudsen, Project Manager at Fjernvarme Fyn.
Marlene Kronborg Robanke, Strategic Buyer says, “Fjernvarme Fyn is building a state-of-the-art biomass plant. We are delighted to start a cooperation with Prometec.”
“There has been much discussion about biomass usage. We aim to be the company to deliver accurate information to our clients about biomass so that they can adjust their processes and operate in a highly energy efficient way,” said Henna Karlsson, Prometec CTO.
“The cooperation with Prometec is bringing the market a groundbreaking solution where the heterogenous biomass material can be checked in representative way and automatically in rea-time. We have developed a moisture device with Prometec for several years,” said Markku Tiitta, Puumit CEO.
Fjernvarme Fynis Denmark’s third largest district heating company and is owned by the municipalities of Odense and Nordfyn. The company owns the largest combined heat and power plants on Funen, has almost 300 employees, and is one of Europe’s largest heat suppliers. We cover approximately 97% of the heating demand in Odense and the surrounding area, corresponding to more than 200,000 residential units. District heating is supplied according to the general guidelines set out in the heating plan, which defines supply areas and more. Fjernvarme Fyn’s aim is to provide customers with the best possible heat supply at the cheapest possible prices, while helping to increase customers’ energy and environmental awareness.
Prometec is a Finnish technology company specializing in the quality control of biomass. Prometec has improved fuel quality control and energy efficiency in more than 20 heat and power plants since 2012. Sampling has been recognized as a key element in quality control due to the heterogeneity of wooden biomass material. The moisture of the material varies even within one load, and it is necessary for energy efficiency to have accurate moisture information about each biomass delivery. Prometec’s Q-Robot automated sampler systems analyze more than 60,000 truckloads and 12,000 train containers of fuel per year in three countries.
Juha Huotari, CEO, Prometec, email@example.com +358 50 591 7350
The measurement of fuel quality in power plants has been developed considerably in recent years and its importance will become even more important as the share of fossil fuels is replaced by less homogeneous biomass. The biomass to be burned arrives at the power plant in trucks or trains or vessels. One load may contain forest residue chips imported from the surrounding area, one lorry can contain recycled wood chips, and one may contain by-products of the forest industry, such as sawdust and bark. These loads can be very different in terms of moisture and energy content – and the variation between individual loads can also be very high. However, the quality information of the loads, of which moisture information is the most important, is currently only available when the fuel is already being unloaded and the fuel is entering the boiler or in some cases it has already been burnt.
Prometec’s product development goal has been to provide real-time moisture information on biomass loads before the load is unloaded at the power plant. The development has been based on a fully automated sampling robot, almost a decade of fuel measurement data and mathematical prediction models refined with intelligent machine learning solutions.
As a result of long-term product development, Prometec is now the first in the world to provide real-time fuel moisture data before unloading. Data is available throughout the supply chain via the Q-Data cloud service system developed by Prometec. As a result, the moisture data will enable better control of the entire fuel quality chain, as the fuel supplier will already be able to react to quality issues with real-time data. At the power plant, moisture data is an essential control parameter for the entire combustion process: the better the moisture data of the fuel unloaded into the storage silos, the more efficiently the boiler combustion can be controlled, and combustion losses and emissions minimized.
Q-Data fuel management system
A prototype of the Q-Data system has already been developed and tested in Kajaani, but the first actual Q-Data system will be built for Kuopio Energia within next few months. The use of the real-time moisture data produced by the system will be developed in cooperation with Kuopion Energia. The first objective is to use the real-time fuel moisture data to instruct the truck driver where to unload the fuel. In this way, for example, dry fuel can be driven to one storage silo and more moist fuel to another, and the boiler feed can be directed to the storage silos to ensure that the fuel flow is as even as possible in terms of moisture. In the future, the aim is to provide quality data directly to the power plant control system so that the boiler combustion process can be controlled as energy-efficiently as possible by optimizing the fuel supply.
“This solution, developed by Prometec, will for the first time allow immediate forecasting of delivery lots with different moisture content. This is exactly the data we need, for example to use artificial intelligence to tune our combustion process for optimum efficiency and to get the most out of the fuels we buy. It is also really important that we can react immediately and intervene if he fuel supplied does not meet the quality requirements,” says Peter Seppälä, Production Director of Kuopion Energia.
“It’s great that we can put our innovation into practice with our long-term partner Kuopion Energia and use the data to find ways to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions in plants,” says Henna Karlsson, Business Director at Prometec. “We want to be a pioneer in biomass quality control and we believe that our innovation will help power plants to achieve significant cost savings while promoting more sustainable use of natural resources,” says Henna Karlsson.
Prometec’s automatic sampling has been verified by VTT
A comparative study carried out by VTT (Technical research center of Finland) was made in November 2020 at Kuopio Energy’s Haapaniemi power plant. For five days, samples from different types of biofuel loads were collected in both ways, with a Q-robot and manually by VTT. So, the comparison included automatic sampling and manual sampling. Load-specific samples were taken daily from all loads delivered during the 10-hour test period. Samples for the comparison were collected from a total of 59 loads, of which 26 loads were forest residue chips, 20 loads of whole wood and stem chips, 8 loads of peat and the remaining loads were sawdust and bark.
The comparative study followed the principles of the Wood Fuels Quality Guide (VTT-M-07608-13) and manual sampling was carried out in accordance with the standard ISO 18135: 2017. Manual increments were taken during the unloading from the falling material stream. According to the quality guideline, at least 6 individual samples (2 truck + 4 trailer) are taken from a combination of truck+trailer vehicle (100 – 160 m3), in which case these sample volumes have the possibility to achieve an accuracy requirement of about 3% in moisture with 3 – 5 load deliveries. Automated sampling was performed by a Q-robot that took load-specific samples according to its normal operating sequence. The Q-robot takes samples fully automatically and randomly from different depths and different points of the load in accordance with the sampling standard EN ISO 18135: 2017. Moisture was analyzed from the samples and particle size distributions were also analyzed from forest residue chip samples.
The difference in average moisture of all fuel types over the reference period between sampling methods was 0.7 percentage points. In the comparison, there was a particular interest in the differences between the sampling methods for inhomogeneous forest residue chips, where the moisture variations within the load can be very large. In comparison, the average moisture difference between the sampling methods for all forest residue chip loads was 1.5 percentage points. For forest residue chips, as for all other fuel types, the moisture variations between the loads were reasonably large and the moisture between the sampling methods were scattered in one and the other, but no systematic difference was observed between the sampling methods. As a result of the verification, no clear systematic difference between the methods affecting the results in one direction could be observed from the results. In the light of these research results, the automatic sampling of the Q-robot meets the requirements of the standard for reliable sampling.
It is important for us to know how to develop our operations and products as well as our services. We at Prometec believe that our current customers are the best opportunities for sparrers and that’s why we actively want to hear how we have succeeded. Development doesn’t happen over one night and it requires enthusiastic doing and investing in new, not forgetting well-functioning models. We want to be Reliable, Innovative and Eager.
The latest customer survey was sent about a month ago. The purpose of the survey was to find out our customers’ satisfaction with the products and services, and in a bigger picture, the customers’ opinions about us. Therefore, we would like to say thank you to all the respondents, we greatly appreciate your answers. Based on the responses, we can say that we have succeeded in creating good and reliable relationship with our customers. In particular, we received praise for working close to the customer and being active towards the customer. We will continue this work. Also, we received positive feedback from the quick response to the contacts. Our customers’ willingness to recommend was very good 9.4 (max 10) based on the international NPS = Net Promoter Score scale. The answers encourage us to continue our innovative work in both products and services.
Thanks again to the respondents. We are happy to return to development ideas in our personal conversations.