In MENER project, journey of burnable wood from forest to power plant’s boiler is optimized using AI
The most important quality characteristic of wood-based fuel used in power plants is moisture. If a power plant can estimate the moisture content of the fuel before combustion, the combustion process can be adjusted to operate efficiently. Variation in moisture poses a particular challenge to the operation of the power plant’s boiler. Typically, the fluctuation caused by moisture variation has been stabilized with the help of peat, which is currently being phased out. To continue controlling the combustion process as efficiently as possible without compromising the boiler’s operation, new methods are needed to optimize the process.
The goal of the From Forest to Energy (MENER) project is to optimize the combustion process of wood-based fuels burned in power plants. The issue is approached through data and artificial intelligence. Through power plants and their collaborators, truck load data and process data are collected, which hasn’t been fully utilized yet. Additionally, data can be collected from the original forest locations and harvesting times, and supplemented with local storage time weather information.
“In the ideal scenario, the journey of wood-based fuel is known all the way from the harvesting area to the power plant’s boiler, and the fuel can be provided with the most accurate moisture forecast for different stages of the journey. The more precisely power plants know the quality characteristics of fuel coming from different sources, the better its flow can be guided at the power plants, and the combustion process optimized,” states Mr. Petri Koponen, the head of the MENER project and a senior lecturer at Kajaani University of Applied Sciences.
Previously, fuel quality information wasn’t available before unloading the load, which is why combustion or logistics optimization hasn’t been possible on this scale. Now that real-time quality information is available, we can achieve significant improvements on an entirely different level in enhancing both power plant energy efficiency and optimizing the logistics of timely fuel loads. The project is carried out as a collaborative effort involving Kajaani University of Applied Sciences (KAMK) and the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke). The work is divided so that Luke focuses on the journey of the fuel from the forest to the power plant gate, and KAMK focuses on the journey of the fuel from the gate to the boiler. The project started in June 2023, lasts for 2 years, and is funded by the Regional Council of Kainuu. The project budget is nearly 500 k€. From this, the share of KAMK is 300 k€ and the share of Luke is 200 k€.
The project involves several energy industry collaborators: power plants Kainuun Voima, Kuopion Energia and Oulun Energia; forestry management company Laania; automated sampling systems provider Prometec Tools; and Valmet Automation.
For more information:
Kajaani University of Applied Sciences
Senior lecturer and contact person for the MENER Project, Dr. Petri Koponen
+358 40 660 9709
Natural Resources Institute Finland
Research Scientist, Mr. Jari Lindblad
+358 29 532 3072