Achieving net zero carbon emissions with SCADA

Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software can play a key role in helping industrial organizations on their journey to net zero carbon emissions.

By Suzanne Gill February 12, 2022
Courtesy: Russelectric, New Products for Engineers Database

To understand how much carbon and other emissions an industrial organization is producing, it first needs to capture data from every process and every piece of equipment used in the value chain. Industrial organizations that are already on a path to Industry 4.0 and using supervisory control and data acqusition/human-machine interface (SCADA/HMI) software will be able to use their digital technology investments to provide the information needed to measure greenhouse gas emission activities and critically, where they can make decisions to support change.

According to research commissioned by AVEVA, 66% of surveyed industry leaders and managers believe that the ability to share and discuss data sets across teams in real-time has the greatest potential to support the journey to net zero carbon emissions.

“In order to increase collaboration between operations teams, it is necessary to remove any data silos and ensure that everyone operates from a connected information infrastructure,” said Jeremy Wilbert, senior product marketing manager at AVEVA. “That is why 89% of our survey respondents say their company is investing already, with a focus on collaboration tools, real-time data, and predictive analytics. We have already seen organizations benefiting from the results of this decision.”

Offering an example he cited Henkel, the German chemical and consumer products company, which is seeking to reduce emissions from production sites by three-fourths by 2030 with digital technology being seen as a key component for success.

“Henkel’s results have been significant with reduced year-on-year energy consumption, by up to 16% and annual energy cost savings reaching an incremental €8 million in 2020, driven by digital analytics,” Wilbert said.

“Achieving the goals outlined at the recent Glasgow Climate Change Conference will require everyone across many different areas to work in unison to reduce emissions. There is no single factor. However, organizations of all sizes in every industry, will benefit by investing in the modernization and digitalisation of their industrial operations control capabilities,” Wilbert said. He believes that the key is increasing visibility and ensuring the right data is measured to gain the insight necessary for positive outcomes.

Renewable energy and net zero

As global demand for energy increases, decarbonization and environmental sustainability strategies to help mitigate climate change, require greater use of renewable energy and clean fuels in addition to making operational and energy efficiency improvements.

“SCADA software has a role to play in many of these crucial elements,” said Veronica Constantin, vice president global sustainability at Emerson. “Within renewable energy production, SCADA is used widely to monitor and control assets, especially those in disparate and remote locations.”

There is a need to provide workers with the tools and information to maximize availability and efficiency. Emerson recently provided SCADA software for a photovoltaic park in Azerbaijan, which has enabled management of the entire park operations through a single user interface. The solution provides real-time visualization of inverter performance, and the use of historical data helps to quickly identify and resolve equipment issues and enables less-experienced operators to maximize operational performance.

“With fluctuating energy costs, improving energy efficiency and lowering consumption has been a key focus for most industries,” Constantin said. “The implementation of energy management systems has become widespread, helping organizations to monitor their usage across a facility. SCADA software, with integrated energy monitoring function modules, enables energy managers to collect and control energy data, analyze consumption and improve decision-making and energy efficiency strategies. Emerson is supporting a wine producer in Italy to do this at two of its production plants. The company was already using an Emerson SCADA system to monitor and control the production lines. By applying an energy function module, it has been able to measure energy consumption in real-time, and record and aggregate data in a database for subsequent analysis, ultimately leading to optimized energy efficiency, reduced costs and reduced environmental impact.”

SCADA solutions are also used widely in the oil and gas sector, helping streamline and integrate dispersed assets. These systems support monitoring, measurement and control applications that enable optimized asset performance and safety.

“With methane being a primary component of natural gas and a powerful greenhouse gas, minimizing and preventing leaks from natural gas pipelines can contribute towards lowering overall GHG emissions,” Constantin said. “Sophisticated modeling software that uses SCADA data (flow, pressure, density measurements) provides pipeline leak detection and localization, helping to quickly identify ruptures and pinhole leaks. In addition, compressor stations supporting the natural gas pipeline themselves generate significant CO2 emissions. Greater visibility provided by SCADA can helps to optimize these assets, increase efficiency and lower emissions.”

As the world transitions to clean fuels there remains a reliance on SCADA to monitor flow rates, pressure, temperature and other operational parameters. Similarly, pipeline infrastructure supporting carbon capture, utilization and storage projects will need to adopt SCADA to ensure pipeline and storage integrity.

“Supporting these applications are cloud-based SCADA solutions that enable secure access from any device via a web browser. With assets remotely located, immediate access to real-time data reduces travel, saves time and allows workers to focus on value-added tasks. Cloud-based SCADA solutions are also supplemented by software as a service (SaaS) models that remove the complexity and costs of managing on-site servers,” Constantin said.

Anyone can achieve net zero carbon emissions

With the right combination of software for monitoring, visualization and management, plus connected devices, any manufacturing operation can work toward net zero carbon emissions, argues Christian Nomine, strategic product manager visualization & analytics at Mitsubishi Electric Factory Automation EMEA.

“Deploying this on top of an installed automation system does help achieve a more comprehensive result, particularly on larger sites such as automotive production plants,” Nomine said. “However, there are many small-to-medium sized enterprises where, if the right SCADA solution is combined with minimal hardware, it is still possible to establish an effective benchmark for energy usage and equipment efficiency.”

According to Nomine, hardware essentials include networkable power management meters, plus local energy measuring and monitoring devices that can be added to existing control panels. From there, analysis can reveal areas of potential improvement, changes can be made and the system will start to increase efficiency and save energy, materials, and time. All while working towards net zero.

“Some manufacturing processes are inherently energy intensive – such as those creating or refining metals from raw materials,” continued Nomine. “Here, accurate monitoring and management can allow for greener utilities and other offset activities to be brought into play, in addition to on-site energy saving measures. By creating an accurate picture of energy usage over time, working toward zero emissions then becomes practical and possible.”

A project will often begin with a survey of a production line and an energy diagnosis report, helping to establish real-time consumption levels and working towards the goal of making improvements on energy usage. Nomine recommends starting small, even if the intention is to eventually include an entire factory, plus its upstream suppliers, logistics and distribution operations, or even end-of-life recycling options.

“We often measure real-time energy usage and the associated costs. These are compared with the quoted performance expectations from the OEM or installer, to provide more insight into possible areas of improvement,” he said. Charting past consumption is essential to validate any expected financial gains compared with initial estimates. Establishing energy KPIs to be shared with various teams within an organization is also vital to ensure the effort is coherent and effective both in roll-out and ongoing delivery.”

The advantage for most companies that are not looking at a new site or production line, is that an effective energy management system can often be implemented without revising an existing architecture. New systems can be connected to equipment already in place, using standard and secure communication protocols, such as OPC UA, for collecting real-time data. Manufacturing execution systems (MES) and other data resources can be connected via structured query language (SQL) and other database formats. Project managers are then able to prioritize actions for higher energy consuming machines or processes.

“From a practical viewpoint, using SCADA products effectively to help work toward net zero carbon emissions requires a good partner for automation integration knowledge and any additional hardware installation,” advises Nomine. “A project should benchmark, identify trends and areas of improvement, then make changes quickly and effectively to produce measurable results. Too often, energy saving, and general sustainability measures are put into place in isolation, without an effective plan covering the bigger picture”.

However, every positive action helps and deploying a robust system for visualizing and reporting on change is vital to identifying and making systematic changes that have a tangible effect on the end goal – achieving net zero.

– This originally appeared on Control Engineering Europe’s website. Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, cvavra@cfemedia.com.


Suzanne Gill
Author Bio: Suzanne Gill is editor, Control Engineering Europe.