By Walt Boyes, Editor in Chief
Like other resource industries, the metals and mining segment is facing the pressures of globalization, heightened competition and higher production—all with fewer qualified people and increasingly stringent governmental regulations. Asset owners are being pushed to both optimize production and to reduce operational risks.
"Our mining process solution helps customers reduce risk by using standardized modules, design libraries and templates developed specifically for the mining industry," said Steve Proctor, operations manager for Rockwell Automation's Hiprom unit and moderator of the Mining & Metals Industry Forum at this week's Automation Fair in Chicago. "We also reduce the amount of configuration and coding necessary to get from design to start-up."
PlantPAx is also well-equipped to handle the complex, model-based optimization schemes needed in many mining and refining operations. "Processes are defined by their constraints," said Quin Dennis, Rockwell Automation global process technology consultant, "outside of which, ‘there be dragons.'"
Customers who are pushed harder every day for higher production and higher quality need something more than conventional regulatory control. "Rockwell Automation introduced model-predictive control in the minerals industry many years ago," Dennis said. "These are challenging applications, partly due to disturbances from the raw materials, complex interactions between process variables and the time delays involved."
Rockwell Automation's multivariable predictive control (MPC) implementations have been used in kilns successfully to increase throughput by 6% to 8%, reduce variability by as much as 45% and reduce emissions by 35%. In ball mills, similar results have been obtained. And in bentonite dryers, one customer got such a throughput increase that it shut down the plants where MPC was not implemented. "ROI is typically less than a year," Dennis said.
Rockwell Automation's mining solution is based on the company's PlantPAx process control system combined with industry-specific Logix add-on instructions (AOIs) and high-performance HMI user controls (faceplate and symbol templates). Field devices are directly integrated into the PlantPAx system using EtherNet/IP and ControlNet. "The PlantPAx system is a holistic design approach to every part of a process automation system," Dennis said.