Tata Chemicals boosts plant operations with a digital twin
9 MINS READ
TCL wanted to use insights from historical data to boost its productivity.
TCL is the world’s third-largest producer of soda ash and sixth-largest producer of sodium bicarbonate. The chemical major was seeing increased pricing pressure due to the expanding soda ash market. To stay competitive and enhance operational excellence, TCL began its digital journey with TCS.
A crucial step in determining soda ash yield is carbonation during which any process variation would result in a lower yield. Even with advanced control mechanisms, the process was complicated. Manually analyzing carbonation process data and taking immediate action was challenging. What’s more, when running at less-than-ideal efficiency, TCL’s boilers consumed more fuel. Reducing process variability and increasing output critically depended on the power plant's performance and dependability.
An analysis of six months' operational data from the carbonation towers and high-pressure boilers revealed that excessive process variance caused efficiency and yield loss. TCL was looking for ways to boost its productivity. The carbonation towers' efficiency was 67.8%. TCL set a target of 70%, as every 1% increase in yield would result in an annual margin of $400,000.
The plant's data spanning over 32,000 sensors was stored in decision support systems (DCS) that gave operators a unified view of the plant's operations. While the DCS stored historical data of a few months, it needed data on operating information of equipment that went back 12–18 months. This disparity in data made it challenging for plant operators to take accurate decisions.
TCS implemented a digital twin for TCL’s carbonation towers and boilers for greater efficiency and data-led insights.
TCS helped TCL set up the historical data and implement a data historian (a database that collects and stores time-series data from various sources). Concurrently, a discovery value assessment (DVA) was carried out for the carbonation towers and boilers at the company’s Mithapur plant. TCS deployed a digital twin for TCL’s carbonation towers and boilers and chose three towers and two boilers for the pilot, which could subsequently be scaled up. The DVA generated internal momentum and drove the requirement to improve key performance indicators and monetary savings.
The digital twin increased the boiler efficiency at the power plant. This AI-driven system generated real-time set points, allowing operators to adjust and boost boiler efficiency. The implementation was completed for the two boilers and provided insights to lower the rise in boiler stack temperature and cut fuel consumption. This allowed plant operators to keep a high steam-to-fuel ratio. With the digital twin, plant operators could now ensure that the carbonation towers operated efficiently. They could precisely determine which parameters needed to be adjusted and to what extent.
A cross-functional team including boiler experts and chemical engineers adept at operating processing facilities delivered on this project. TCL’s employees were also given on-site training on the implemented systems and processes.
Boosting efficiency in plant operations with digital twin technology
By partnering with TCS, TCL could realize the following benefits:
$600,000 in cost savings annually by implementing digital twins for the carbonation towers and boilers.
Increased average yield, relying on AI-led actionable insights that increased process consistency and significant reduction in standard deviation.
As R Mukundan, MD, Tata Chemicals Limited, puts it, "Today, TCL's operators leverage digital technology to improve safety, operational efficiency, and drive excellence. This program could not have come at a better time as it helped us through the Covid-19 lockdown phase. It helped us manage operations effectively and match the market demand without impacting efficiency.”
What the Client Says