New controller boosts ash recycling facility12 October 2021

A by-product of the power generation process at waste-to-energy plants, incinerator bottom ash (IBA) can be recycled into construction aggregates and metals. Specialising in the transformation of this residue ash, Blue Phoenix wanted to improve the reliability, uptime and troubleshooting capabilities of its plant in Widnes, Cheshire. To achieve this, Mitsubishi Electric and Total Automated Solutions (TAS) provided an upgraded control system consisting of a MELSEC iQ-R PLC with three Ethernet/IP modules and GT SoftGOT2000 PC based HMI software.

The implementation of the entire solution was completed with only two hours of planned downtime and was said to greatly enhance the reliability, as well as accessibility, of the plant control system.

IBA contains valuable non-ferrous and ferrous metals as well as aggregates that, when properly extracted, can be used in the construction sector. The most important aspect of IBA processing facilities is their ability to efficiently handle large volumes of heterogeneous feedstock whilst delivering optimum recovery rates.

Advanced plant control is therefore essential to optimise recycling activities and uptime while also enabling operators to quickly address anomalies and conduct troubleshooting activities. In addition, these systems should be based on robust automation components that can withstand the harsh operating conditions present in IBA facilities. In effect, the performance of control panels and core equipment needs to remain unaffected by the high concentrations of metal particulates in the air.

When Blue Phoenix was experiencing issues with the plant control system at its Widnes site, it needed a reliable solution. As the plant runs near to continuously, any potential downtime needed to be kept to a minimum. To overcome these challenges, the company contacted its preferred automation system integrator, TAS, which is a Mitsubishi Electric approved solutions partner in its system integrator programme. With over ten years of successful collaboration between the two companies, they have worked together to maximise the performance of Blue Phoenix’s IBA installations throughout the UK.

Most of Blue Phoenix’s facilities use similar control systems and equipment to ensure reliability as well as performance across processes and sites. This standardisation also helps operators effectively interact with and monitor different plants whilst utilising the same procedures and tools, regardless of location.

The Widnes location differed from the other installations, resulting in a lack of uniformity and operational challenges.

Nigel Mitchell, operations director at Blue Phoenix, said: “This facility was originally built with a framework supplied by an alternate vendor. Over time, we noticed that the control system, and by extension the plant itself, was not as reliable and user-friendly as the ones provided by TAS. The recycling processes often stopped and on top of that it was difficult to find the cause of a fault as troubleshooting was not easy, which led to increased downtime.”

To provide an updated control set-up and bring the Widnes facility in line with other Blue Phoenix plants while minimising costs and downtime, TAS suggested upgrading the existing PLC with a Mitsubishi Electric iQ-R. This would also be equipped with modules to support Ethernet/IP which was already in place at the facility. As a result, TAS did not need to make any network modifications whilst ensuring effective communications between the PLC and all the drives across the plant. The GT SoftGOT2000 PC based HMI software solution would then control and visualise the recycling processes whilst helping to identify as well as correct anomalies.

Kevin Chapman, operations manager at TAS, adds: “In addition to reliability and performance, the versatility of Mitsubishi Electric’s control system was crucial to upgrading Blue Phoenix’s facility. In effect, the company’s automation components are compatible with network technologies and devices from multiple vendors, making it straightforward and cost-efficient to update existing systems.

“Mitsubishi Electric’s expert technical team supported us throughout the design and implementation phases, especially when it came to interacting with Ethernet/IP on such a large network. This greatly helped us with the on-site testing processes as well, which we completed quickly.”

Craig Simmons, support systems coordinator at Blue Phoenix, comments: “We are extremely happy with the new control system. The plant is now much easier to manage and aligns with our other IBA processing sites. We can also rely on higher visibility and accessibility, which support better diagnostics. Ultimately, it is now much easier to maintain the facility and its activities.”

Following on from this successful collaboration, the three companies are now working on a new project. TAS is supporting Blue Phoenix’s development of its first IBA plant in Australia with a control system based on Mitsubishi Electric’s PLC, SCADA and HMI.

Operations Engineer

Related Companies
Mitsubishi Electric Europe BV

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