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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Flexible HMI/SCADA is Key to Success for Microalgae Production in Europe


  • AQUALGAE is a Spanish company specialized in integral solutions for microalgae production, including design and manufacture of photobioreactors, supply of microalgae strains and culture media. Microalgae play a key role in aquaculture, food and feed industry, and may prove to be outstanding for better biofuels, food and pharmaceuticals, and water/wastewater treatments.

  • AQUALGAE soon turned to InduSoft Web Studio to create flexible and robust SCADA/HMI systems that could grow with advancing technology in the increasingly important microalgae production industry.

  • With InduSoft Web Studio, AQUALGAE has been able to meet the shifting requirements of customers who require a robust and highly flexible SCADA/HMI system to control and monitor photobioreactor plants.



Figure 1: AQUALGAE develops solutions for microalgae production, including design and manufacture of photobioreactors, supply of microalgae strains and culture media.


 

Microalgae are microscopic algae typically found in freshwater and marine systems. They have a very high photosynthetic efficiency and may be found in all habitats of our planet. Microalgae are the main primary producers and contribute to the major capture of CO2 from the atmosphere, with its concomitant O2 release. There is a tremendous biotechnology potential over microalgae still to be explored.

With climate change recognized as one of the top threats to our planet, microalgae may prove to be key for CO2 mitigation, creating biofuels, developing food and pharmaceuticals, and water/wastewater treatments. The vast array of products that can be produced through microalgae cultivation include everything from industrial applications to health and food supplements.

AQUALGAE is a company specialized in integral solutions for microalgae production, from small-scale labs to pilot-scale and large scale projects. The company designs, manufactures, and installs different type of photobioreactors, as well as offering microalgae starter cultures, culture media, and auxiliary equipment.

Due to the rapid growth in the industry, scalability is critical to new systems developed by AQUALGAE. When they discovered that their original SCADA software platform was not flexible enough to handle the growing demands of customers. AQUALGAE soon turned to InduSoft Web Studio to create flexible and robust SCADA/HMI systems that could scale easily with advancing technology.



Figure 2: The applications can be viewed on mobile devices, bringing information where it’s needed.

The Challenge

When culturing microalgae in a photoautotrophic way, the main factors that influence productivity are light, temperature, culture media, pH, dissolved CO2 and O2, salinity and culture method. In order to optimize culture conditions, all these parameters must be perfectly monitored and automatically controlled.

AQUALGAE wanted a system that could not only monitor these values, but also make the data available at any time across multiple mobile devices via a web solution. They needed a reliable and highly available system that would also be flexible enough to allow easy integration with many different components, such as Beckhoff, Modbus, Siemens, and serial COM devices.

Rather than use multiple software platforms for SCADA and HMI, AQUALGAE wanted to use the same solution for both, and had to ensure that the SCADA platform they chose would also allow integration with ERP.

InduSoft Web Studio proved to be the perfect fit. It offered SCADA and HMI capabilities, as well as hundreds of drivers for all the most commonly used device protocols. InduSoft Web Studio includes a web solution right out of the box, and integrates well with ERP systems. It was also a solution that would make it easy to scale projects up when needed, or add features or components whenever the system required an update.

 

The Solution

InduSoft Web Studio serves as the HMI platform on several photobioreactors and is used in the SCADA system to monitor and control plants across Europe. The systems communicate with Beckhoff controllers, Beckhoff SoftPLC (Twincat) devices, measurement devices for liquid analysis, mass flow meters, control valves, and energy meters.

While each system is slightly different, there are some basic areas of the microalgae production plant that each system monitors and controls. For example, each plant monitors and records trending data on the physical and chemical variables of the algae. These include pH values, temperature, dissolved oxygen and nitrates present in the culture. The system also manages culture media recipes, and monitors energy consumption.

Alarms inform plant operators when the variables move outside of accepted parameters, and information is stored in SQL databases with redundant servers to protect data. System security is implemented by ensuring that each operator has individual username and password credentials. The system utilizes User Group management and event logging when tags are changed.  Web clients offer operators access to the system from a variety of mobile devices, and alarms can offer operators mobile notification of any problem areas within the plant.

The setup and installation of the systems went smoothly, and InduSoft Web Studio’s flexibility means that it’s possible to create template applications that allow AQUALGAE to develop new systems rapidly, or quickly upgrade existing systems.

 

Figure 3: The applications  developed by AQUALGAE offer both SCADA and HMI capabilities. Shown here is a screen for microalgae plant SCADA controls.

The Results

As a result of the implementation of InduSoft Web Studio based systems, AQUALGAE has been able to meet the ever-shifting needs of their clients. Several satisfied customers plan to enlarge their microalgae production plants within the next few years, and AQUALGAE cites the flexibility of InduSoft Web Studio as a key contributor to the planned system expansions.

Currently AQUALGAE is working on new projects within Europe, and is planning to expand business opportunities to Africa, Middle East and South America.


Figure 4: Each plant monitors and records trending data on the physical and chemical variables of the algae. These include pH values, temperature, dissolved oxygen and nitrates present in the culture.


For more information contact your local distributor or InduSoft directly at info@indusoft.com or 877-INDUSOFT (877-463-8763877-463-8763) or 512-349-0334512-349-0334.


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