Going green: Automation is key to China’s aggressive energy plans

In recent decades, extreme atmospheric conditions such as snowstorms, sandstorms, rainstorms, high temperature and drought have all occurred across China. Global warming caused by over-consumption of carbon-based fuels is regarded as a significant cause. Therefore, improvements in energy usage has been a central focus of concern in China.

By Kenny Fu, Editor in Chief, Control Engineering China March 1, 2008

In recent decades, extreme atmospheric conditions such as snowstorms, sandstorms, rainstorms, high temperature and drought have all occurred across China. Global warming caused by over-consumption of carbon-based fuels is regarded as a significant cause. Therefore, improvements in energy usage has been a central focus of concern in China.

Today China is the second biggest country in terms of energy utilities and consumption. Per unit GDP value in China is 4.3 times and 11.5 times of that in U.S. and Japan, respectively. Although China is continually phasing out aged equipment and techniques to improve energy efficiency, high-consumption industries have grown as well. Energy consumption per unit of product for metal, power, chemicals, and five other industries is 40% higher than the average in the rest of the world.

The recently released Outline of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan aims to reduce energy consumption per unit GDP 20% by 2010. In addition, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) cites automation technology as a significant way to save energy.

Process energy efficiency sought

Process energy efficiency will play a central role in saving energy. A recent survey revealed that over 60% of electricity is used in industry, up to 40% of which can be saved by energy efficient automation. Both single-equipment energy saving techniques (including energy efficient engines, variable frequency drives, soft starters, energy feedback, etc.) and process-wide control and energy management solutions are targets for energy savings.

Motors in China consume 80-100 billion kWh electric energy, which covers 65% of all energy used in industry. However, only 20% of motors for fans and electric pumps employ adjustable speed drives. As a result, variable frequency upgrading has been highlighted by the NDRC.

During the Eleventh Five-year Plan , China will increase motion efficiency by 2% to save 20 billion kWh. In summary, energy saving improvements in motion systems provide the most promising investments with a potential market valuing 180 billion Chinese yuan.

China’s metal, cement, power, oil refining and chemical industries are replacing mechanical methods with electric and electronic ones, promoting energy efficient motion as well as upgrading to ac drives. At the same time, they promote variable frequency with technological reconstruction, apply soft starters and Static Var Compensators.

In China’s variable frequency drive (VFD) market, ABB is perceived as a leader in both technological leadership and market share. The Direct Torque Control (DTC) technique, for example, was developed and supported by ABB and is one of the most advanced methods for controlling ac asynchronous motors, increasing control accuracy without feedback encoders.

ABB Beijing Drive Systems Co. Ltd., a branch in China for ac and dc motion products, produces and sells motion products appropriate for speed control of motors from 0.12KW to 4,000 kW. Its products have been widely applied in industrial conveyors, compressors, elevators, fans and pumps, so benefit for ABB users with saving 30 billion kWh electric energy in past 12 years.

On the other hand, using worldwide popular converter energy feedback technology, SINAMICS G120 released by Siemens satisfies the requirement of saving energy as well. With newly-designed circuits, as well as a structure improving the flexibility and reliability of the control system, SINAMICS G120 delivers significant energy savings and dramatically reduces costs associated with building and maintenance.

DCS and advanced process control

Distributed Control Systems (DCSs) are an essential safeguard for improving efficiency, guaranteeing safety and are especially important for reducing consumption in China’s oil refining and chemical industries. The leading fourth-generation DCS systems have been introduced in China, such as Industrial IT from ABB, Experion PKS from Honeywell, PlantWeb from Emerson, A2 from Foxboro and R3 from Yokogawa.

Hollysys, a local automation company selected as one of top 50 automation vendors by ARC, also released its fourth-generation DCS product, HOLLiAS MACS series in 2002, and developed several specific platforms for different vertical industries. For example, Circle Flow Bed Boiler (CFBB) for thermal power has higher combustion efficiency and lower discharge, and can even make the best of low quality coal. Hollysys realized the advantages of CFBB in energy saving ten years earlier, began studying relevant control rules, and promoted a set of DCS control systems for power industry. With years of experience, Hollysys established a series of control solutions for different types and sizes of CFBBs, with over 300 successful application cases, helping to use combustion coal efficiently.

Advanced Process Control (APC) based on DCS is also an important system optimization method. Involving scientific control theories, APC brings out the best of DCS and traditional control systems, keeps production equipment running well, and noticeably saves energy.

Honeywell’s advanced control and local optimization system, Profit Suite, employs multi-variable estimation control and large scale dynamic optimization techniques, improving enterprise operating control system stability and reducing energy consumption. Nearly 200 sets of Profit Suite have been deployed in over thirty plants of Sinopec and Petro China.

Systematic energy management portfolio

As an integrated system combining software and hardware, energy management solutions provide automatic control for power monitoring; heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), refrigeration and auxiliary equipment. These solutions also act as a strategic component for scheduling and optimizing resources across the enterprise.

In this field, Rockwell Automation has been conducting business in China for twenty years, offering complete solutions for most applications. Power & Energy Management Solution (PEMS) by Rockwell Automation involving HVAC sensors, Powermonitor, Combined Generator Control Module (CGCM), and software such as RSEnergyMetrix, RSPower etc., with communication network and services, enables users to monitor, collect, analyze and share real-time energy data.

Meanwhile, power control is achieved by combining PEMS and Logix Controller, Motor Control Center (MCC) and drivers. China’s metal industry benefits greatly from PEMS. For example, some steel mills save approximately two million Chinese yuan in power costs alone.

Contract energy management services

Contract energy management services first powered-up in America and Europe in the 1970s, but they are still at the developing stage in China. However, this practice is beginning to become more popular in China and companies like Siemens lead the automation vendors in this area.

Learning from leading energy saving experience, Siemens promotes energy saving commercial models, offering contract energy management based on rent in related technology reconstruction projects. The Wulan cement project in Inner Mongolia is the first application of Siemens A&D Group employing contract energy management.

The project is financially supported by Nanfang International Rent Company, technically supported and audited by Siemens, and reconstructed by Wulan Cement Group. After online measurement of 168 hours, 16 1,313kW SIMOVERT Master Drives save electric energy by approximately 35%.

As China continues to play an increasingly important role in the global economy, remaining focused on environmental concerns during this time of industrial growth and expansion will ensure that China becomes a manufacturing leader in a highly-responsible way.

To see which automation companies are having the greatest positive impact on China, as well as learn more about China’s environmentally-aware manufacturing efforts, read the complete text of this article online at: www.controleng.com/global .