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Technology controls biology

The Vambio bio-gasification plant in Vampula, Finland, turns municipal waste and piggery sludge into energy and ecological fertilizers. Metso supplied both automation and instrumentation systems as one overall solution, ensuring seamless plant commissioning.

Pls feel free to ask for more information. We also appreciate your feedback in all automation related issues.

Process electrification and house electrification, instrumentation and automation were a combination that Watrec, the main contractor for the Vambio bio-gasification plant was looking for in the summer of 2009. Metso was chosen to be the partner and before the year was over, the tuned-up process was started up before schedule.

The main contractor, Watrec, which specializes in bio-gasification development, was also the end customer with its 40% ownership of the plant. The bio-gasification plant in Vampula is a benchmark of Watrec’s expertise, pioneering its flied in all measurements accounts.

The full annual production capacity of Vambio totals 2,6 million m3 of methane. Its naturally generated energy is equivalent to over two million litres of fossil fuels. Despite of these results the gasification plant is firstly a waste incineration solution. As long as fossil fuels are more easily attainable, it is very hard to compete with them on market price.

The Managing Director of Watrec, Juhani Suvilampi, brought this topic up in the Kenttäväylä magazine in spring 2009, sending his regards to the Finnish governing bodies and decision-makers. At the same time, he also mentioned that the Finnish bio-gasification processes represent the top technology partly because they must derive their profitability from waste incineration.

The Vambio bio-gasification plant in Vampula, Finland.

Fieldbus solution improves controllability

As for the automation system and instrumentation, the entire Metso delivery is based on a fieldbus solution. Not a single traditional I/O is connected directly to the automation system, which is rare for any plant. The engineering, executing and commissioning of the automation system was carried out by Esko Koivisto.

In an overall solution like this, the compatibility of components from fieldbus control programs to the correct instrumentation and measurement principles plays a key role. The seamless compatibility between the Metso DNA automation system and Metso Endress+Hauser instruments allowed for a successful process execution without problems.

All motors were equipped with AC drives, which enable the accurate adjusting of the motors’ rotational speed (RPM). This solution was connected to the system through the Profibus DP bus. Together with field device information the drives bring the process controllability and diagnostics onto a level that could could not be realized with traditional solutions.

Pasi Turtia of Metso took care of field instrumentation. Sludge flow measurements were mostly carried out with Endress+Hauser Promag 55 series magnetic indicators. For gas flow measurements, a thermal t-mass 65I –mass measurement indicator has been used.

For surface measurements the plant applied a pneumatic Cerabar M series transmitter, as well as a conductivity surface transmitter for certain specific foam identifications. In addition to that, the delivery comprised of a great number of pressure and temperature indicators, a few pH analyzers and a Metso Total Solids Consistency Transmitter (MetsoTS).

The entire field instrumentation has been based on a Profibus technology.

Regional waste incineration solution

Vambio has proven that a bio-gasification plant can provide a profitable waste incineration solution. It’s located next door to two big piggeries with a waste problem with sludge. They pay a gate fee for waste treatment, but receive economical energy in return.

Vambio is not just a local bio-gasification plant. It is also a regional waste incineration solution. Raw material is partly municipal and industrial by-product waste collected from an approximately 100 km wide area. Profitability is based on the large plant size on one hand, but on the other hand also on making the energy demand and supply meet in the right place.

In spring 2009, Juhani Suvilampi of Watrec estimated that even at its best, energy generation would only provide 1/5 of the plant’s total net sales. Right now, the situation is finally changing, and as of last autumn the Finnish Government left a proposition for the Parliament for a tariff concerning renewable energy. If accepted, this long expected subsidy will ensure a better market price for renewable energy for the following 12 years, which means that bioenergy will become business.

Pls feel free to ask for more information. We also appreciate your feedback in all automation related issues.