A transformation towards the Internet of Things (IoT) has caused researchers to explore IoT services being conducted in several sectors. Among all, waste management is emerging as a major application for IoT. A number of potential undertakings on smart waste management and monitoring system are put into practice using IoT technology, which has successfully proven its competence for various environmental concerns.

According to a recent report of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), UK is expected to witness 30% automation by 2030 in the existing job roles, with the waste management sector to bear the highest risk of around 62.6%. So far, there are a limited number of cases, where cloud computing, big-data analytics, and IIoT have been implemented in solid waste management, especially in WtE processes.

With further involvement, automation will diminish the time, risk, and cost of WtE projects, and deliver maximum efficacy and accessibility from each system. Hence, these modern automation solutions are said to play a major role in managing these WtE plants successfully.

Few notable cases/offerings of automation in the Waste-to-Energy sector are:

  • In May 2018, Riikinvoima Oy selected Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) in order to deploy Honeywell Experion® Orion control room technology to its waste incineration plant situated at Leppävirta, Finland. The Leppävirta site was also supposed to implement Honeywell’s Field Device Manager and Control Performance Monitor.
  • Valmet is one of the most prominent suppliers of automation solutions for Waste-to-Energy plants. Valmet’s automation offering mainly includes the Valmet DNA system, which is an integrated full reporting system with power plant performance monitoring and reporting applications. In January 2017, Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI) chose Valmet’s automation technology for its ‘Ferrybridge 2,’ Waste-to-Energy plant projects. As per the contract, Valmet’s order included a Valmet DNA automation system.
  • Sweden’s Sysav Waste-to-Energy plant deployed ABB’s integrated instrumentation, control, and electrical package, as well as emission monitoring and plant optimization systems. Similarly, for the RABA Southwest Thuringia WtE plant in Germany, ABB provided an electrical, control, and instrumentation solution for the plant, as well as the emission monitoring, fire protection systems & HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). ABB was also selected by the Viennese municipal environmental agency to provide a complete electrical and control solution for the Pfaffenau, Vienna’s largest Waste-to-Energy plant facility, and its two incineration grates.
  • In September 2016, Emerson Process Management was selected by Hitachi Zosen Inova to deliver process automation technologies for Waste-to-Energy projects. One of the projects was the Perlen plant in Switzerland, in which Hitachi Zosen Inova supplied an advanced combustion system, boiler, and flue gas treatment. Similarly, In May, 2016, Emerson was awarded a contract to provide Emerson’s Ovation™ distributed control system to control the plant’s boiler & flue gas treatment for a Waste-to-Energy power plant at North Yorkshire, the UK.
  • In July 2018, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Environmental & Chemical Engineering Co., Ltd. (MHIEC) collaborated with the city of Yokohama to build an operations data network for a Waste-to-Energy plant connecting the plant and the city hall building, and examine the collected data using AI to accomplish more advanced stable operations for WtE plant.
  • In January 2015, Posco Engineering & Construction, Ltd. (POSCO E&C) was awarded a contract by Metso to provide automation technology for the Greenfield Waste-to-Energy plant in Krakow, Poland. As per the contract, Metso was supposed to deliver a Metso DNA automation system, continuous emission monitoring systems, instrumentation & security camera system.
  • In October 2014, VINCI Environment UK awarded a contract to Yokogawa Electric Corporation to provide them with ProSafe®-RS safety instrumented system, and CENTUM® VP integrated production control system for a Waste-to-Energy facility of SITA Cornwall Ltd.
  • Konecranes is another player who operates in Waste-to-Energy (WtE) crane automation, which aids in expanding facility safety, load travel accurateness, and performance efficacy. The company’s offering includes, the CXT® Biomass crane, a fully automated, operator-free system. In October 2017, Konecranes announced a range of material handling technologies explicitly designed for WtE and biomass applications in the Middle East. A large proportion of these cranes are proficient to function in full automation. One of the features that could benefit the Waste-to-Energy plants in the country is Main User Interface (MUI), a standard solution for programming Waste-to-Energy automation. This computer is unified with the crane’s PLC system and lets the machinist plan and program 20 diverse work procedures in full automation, giving plant managers improved flexibility.

The automation for Waste-to-Energy plants makes operation more reliable, profitable, and minimize risks to the workers. A Waste-to-Energy facility usually operates in 2/3 shifts for 24 hours a day. The automation will help in creating sufficient savings to expand other plant areas. Plummeting operating costs aids in keeping plants feasible, and automation is a proven and effective avenue. Thus, automation could be the tipping point that helps Waste-to-Energy plants sustain in the future.