Emerson to install digital architecture at nickel recovery plant

EMERSON PROCESS Management has been chosen by Inco Ltd., Toronto, a producer of nickel, to automate a 1/100th scale demonstration processing plant currently under construction in Argentia, Newfoundland. The Argentia plant is being built to demonstrate the technical and economic validity of Inco’s hydrometallurgy (hydromet) technology to process nickel concentrate. In the event the hydrometallurgical technology proves successful, a full-scale commercial plant using this technology will be built by the end of 2011.

Site of demonstration plant processing facilities in Argentia.

The Argentia demonstration plant will process nickel concentrate produced at a mine and concentrator located at Voisey’s Bay in northern Labrador. Voisey’s Bay Nickel Company Ltd. is responsible for the development of the mine and concentrator, as well as processing facilities on the Island of Newfoundland. 

The project includes installing Emerson’s PlantWeb digital plant architecture to automate the new demonstration plant. The company’s digital approach uses an open, standards-based Foundation fieldbus network to connect intelligent field devices and Emerson’s DeltaV digital automation system. PlantWeb diagnostics in the intelligent field devices will continuously monitor the health of the process, instruments, and equipment, and will inform personnel of any issues that need attention, plus will provide guidance for operators and maintenance staff to address potential problems before they diminish process performance or cause shutdowns. 

The PlantWeb architecture of the new demo plant has more than 100 pH measurement loops that are critical to plant throughput and performance. To achieve the required precise pH control, Emerson’s Rosemount Analytical Solu Comp Xmt transmitters with built-in digital diagnostics will continuously monitor device and process health. Emerson’s TUpH sensors with Silcore technology will be installed in critical loops to withstand the harsh chemical environments.

The digital PlantWeb network also includes Rosemount pressure and temperature transmitters and magnetic flow meters, Fisher control valves with FIELDVUE digital valve controllers, and Rosemount Analytical conductivity instruments. The AMS Suite: Intelligent Device Manager asset optimization software will gather and utilize diagnostic information from the smart field devices. The AMS Device Manager also receives PlantWeb Alerts that are generated when issues arise. The Alerts inform of impending situations, and give guidance to operators and maintenance personnel to help them avoid interruptions and maintain a high level of plant availability. 

“The demonstration facility is the precursor of a commercial plant,” said John Casson of VBNC. “In addition to using PlantWeb in the plant, we are using the DeltaV system at the mine and concentrator at Voisey’s Bay. The PlantWeb architecture will allow us to save substantially in installation and commissioning costs while enhancing diagnostics and making the entire system easier to configure, commission, and maintain.”

 “The demonstration facility is being built on an extremely fast track,” continued Casson. “We are supported by substantial technical assistance from Lakeside Process Controls Ltd. in Toronto and Laurentide Controls Ltd., Montreal, Emerson’s local business partners in eastern Canada. Two companies from Newfoundland and Labrador, Sea Systems Inc. and Avalon Controls & Instrumentation Ltd., are also providing key talent and services to the project. Lakeside serves as a single point of contract for VBNC and SGE Hatch, the process and automation consultant in St. John’s. Laurentide, through Avalon Controls & Instrumentation, is managing the automation supply contracts for the demonstration plant and providing on-site liaison with SGE Hatch.” 

Because this is a new process, built for research and to optimize the metals’ yield, Inco is utilizing state-of-the-art tools, including PlantWeb with fieldbus digital instrumentation and the DeltaV system that offers such advanced control solutions as fuzzy logic, neural networks, and multivariable process control. 

“One of the key deliverables from the demonstration plant is a comprehensive and accurate record of all process and production parameters, including instrumentation performance data, as the plant moves through its operational phases,” Casson said. “The DeltaV system, in conjunction with the PlantWeb, DeviceNet, Asi, and fieldbus technologies, reliably and cost effectively serves this need, while allowing integration with Level 2 and above systems.”

“We are gratified with Inco’s selection of PlantWeb advanced functionality and technology to automate its valuable new mineral recovery technology,” said John Berra, president of Emerson Process Management. “We’re confident that the proven innovation and efficiency of PlantWeb will add value to the new hydromet minerals processing approach.

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