A local operator knows every nook and cranny of his plant
Thomas Nyholm started work as a plant operator in early 2017, working in one of Adven’s plants in the town of Hanko, Finland. Nyholm manages a process steam plant that supplies steam for the production process of Genencor, an industrial enzyme manufacturer with a production facility in Hanko. Owned and operated by Adven, the process steam plant mostly runs on a range of biofuels.
“My main priority as a local operator is to ensure that the plant's energy production is as reliable and safe as possible,” Nyholm says.
In practical terms, this means constantly optimizing the energy production process, performing servicing and preventive maintenance and ensuring that the plant’s production remains as even and stable as possible. As a local operator, he is also responsible for the day-to-day monitoring of the plant's efficiency and the parameters associated with its operation.
“For example, we keep a close eye on the amounts of fuel and forestry by-products we use as well as the water consumption and temperature values of the plant,” Nyholm says.
Efficient work with excellent local reach
Having worn the company overalls for a year, Nyholm says he is very happy with the efficiency with which matters are handled at Adven.
“As an Adven employee, I feel proud of how efficiently we are able to run our plants. Even with minimal resources, we are able to manage a large network of plants. Of course, there is always room for improvement, and we are constantly seeking new efficiencies and ways of optimizing our operations,” Nyholm says.
Nyholm was also positively surprised by the close customer contact his work at Adven involves.
“We at Adven will get in touch with our customers whenever we notice something that might have an effect on their process. This could be anything from deviations we have identified to potential improvements we have come up with,” Nyholm says with satisfaction.
Cost and energy efficiency through fuel optimization
The primary task of Adven's plant operators is to ensure that each plant provides a stable stream of high-quality energy while keeping the costs low. In most cases, this means selecting the right fuels for the conditions at hand and optimizing the fuel mixture used.
“The bulk of our operational work involves optimizing the use of different fuels and fuel grades. The idea is to always select the most optimal fuels for the job, maximizing their benefits,” Nyholm comments.
Nyholm’s plant, which is located in Genencor’s production facility in Hanko, uses reclaimed wood as its primary fuel. Depending on the season, this can be anything from delimbed stems to forest residue or bark.
Climate-friendly fuels require special expertise from operators
While reclaimed wood may be a climate-friendly alternative to other fuels, it is also considerably more challenging to work with.
Different reclaimed wood fractions have different moisture levels and other properties, which means that their combustion properties vary greatly. When a high output is required, the plant operator must have the expertise and knowledge to determine an optimal fuel ratio for achieving the required level.
“Fuels with a high moisture content are cheaper, but they do not always provide as much heat as completely dry materials. In many cases, the focus of my work is finding a suitable ratio between different wood and fuel grades,” explains Nyholm.
“In summer, the wood we use can be too dry, which means that it will burn too quickly and generate too much heat. In winter, impurities and metals, which are always present in biofuels, can cause problems.”
Experimentation is key in developing competence in fuel optimization
Each plant is unique, which means that plant operators will acquire the necessary professional skills and knowledge through practical work over time. After becoming acquainted with the plant and gaining an understanding of the customer’s specific needs, the operator will start to develop the skills required to determine which fuel combinations and fuel ratios to use in different conditions.
Thomas Nyholm uses a battery of tests to monitor the quality of different fuels, identifying what is the best way to use each fuel type and grade available.
“Last fall, for example, was very challenging in terms of selecting which fuels and fuel ratios to use. It rained every day, and the forest residue delivered to the plant had a very high water content. I had to be careful not to overuse forest residue in the combustion process to avoid moisture-related problems.”
Both Adven and its customers benefit from the operators' professional ability to vary the use of different fuels based on the circumstances.
“Using fuel that does not require expertise or professional judgment would mean buying delimbed stem wood chips, which are an expensive fuel to use. This would reduce the profitability of our energy production,” Nyholm says.