KPA Unicon Ltd has launched development projects related to digitalization and the circular economy. With these two projects, the company is seeking new business, product and service opportunities. Existing customers will also be involved in projects that started in January 2020.

The project concerning digitization explores what kinds of new solutions could be provided for the optimization and automatic operation of plants through artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. At the same time, there is a need to increase understanding of how AI-based solutions and tools can be more widely utilized in different areas of energy production.

“We aim to make plant operation, preventive maintenance, and service and spare parts processes more straightforward by means of artificial intelligence, machine learning and data mining,” says Chief Information Officer and project manager Tiia Häsä.

Data for development work is collected (among other sources) from the capacity-as-a-service plants owned by KPA Unicon. It is also possible to pilot various new measurements and sensor solutions in these plants. Moreover, customers with a maintenance contract are offered the opportunity to participate in the project as test plants.

Tarmo Hatunen, Chief Technology Officer, is responsible for the development project concerning fuels comprised of waste and recycled materials. The aim is to develop combustion and plant technologies for recycled fuels in solid, liquid and gas phases, as well as emission control technology for combustion of these fuels.

“As the circular economy becomes more common, plants will have to accept more challenging fuel fractions for combustion. This project will enable us to respond to these fuel changes.”

According to Hatunen, the trend in waste incineration is that large mass waste-to-energy plants will decrease in number and be replaced by smaller plants utilizing fuels which have been further sorted.

“The price of waste fractions may be zero or even negative for our customers. If those waste fractions can be utilized locally, it will have a big economic impact. We are developing existing technologies and also considering new solutions for this need.”

The projects are naturally linked in terms of plant solutions. When one knows how many alternative operating modes can be offered automatically, plant optimization can be taken to a new level. New calculation models, in turn, can be used to improve the plant’s efficiency and usability and to minimize emissions.

“Through computational and simulation models, we can offer solutions for the overall functionality of the plant to our customers. For example, it helps to reduce human risks to a minimum in the operation of the plants, it brings ease and predictability to maintenance, and, at best, it can even extend the lifespan of the plant,” Häsä says.

The projects are being implemented in cooperation with companies as well as research and educational institutions. Both projects are scheduled to end on December 31, 2021.