Digitalization – in the form of interconnected smart sensors, intelligent switchgears, distributed control systems and cloud computing – helps by giving fertilizer companies an unprecedented level of control and insight to optimize their operations. For example, data from every motor and automated process across an entire facility can now be accessed within a single control room, giving producers a complete overview of their site’s health and performance.
While digitalization is still a relatively unexplored area for many fertilizer manufacturers, those with the foresight to invest in it now will likely leapfrog competitors who do not.
The digital opportunity
Having a comprehensive, integrated picture of their operations via digitalization enables manufacturers to use analytics to make more informed production and financial decisions across their entire value chain. Centralized digital platforms can connect stakeholders from different parts of the operation. By improving the flow, quality, frequency and volume of information used in manufacturing and other value chain stages, fertilizer production can become more efficient, productive, and sustainable.
Consider precision agriculture, for example. Companies can now more easily collect and analyze information at an individual site level to identify agricultural practice improvement areas. Remote sensing can reveal patterns and highlight problems which might otherwise have been overlooked. Likewise digital solutions can be used to improve many other areas of production such as energy efficiency.
Case studies within the fertilizer industry
ABB already has considerable experience helping companies continuously improve their productivity through ABB AbilityTM, the company’s digital solution to the market. By bringing together all of its digital products and services in one interoperable end-to-end platform that leverages Microsoft’s Azure cloud solution, ABB is dramatically expanding the business value it has always generated for its chemical customers. It is combining its deep knowledge of different sectors, its technological leadership and digital expertise to help manufacturers bridge the gap between their digital and physical worlds.
ABB’s integrated digital power and automation solutions have been proven to improve efficiency, safety and reliability while reducing operating expenditures and emissions. It has a long track record in customizing integrated solutions for various fertilizer processes using the customers' technologies, those of licensors or EPC contractors. For example, ABB has leveraged its expertise to supply automation and electrical equipment for the manufacturing of plant nutrition and protection products including nitrogen fertilizers, phosphate fertilizers, potash fertilizers, multi-nutrient fertilizers, crop protection to give but a few examples.
Here, we share a few case studies.
Kemira - Finland
Kemira Grow- How Oy is one of Europe’s top producers of fertilizers and animal feed phosphates. Its Uusikaupunki site produces industrial chemicals and fertilizers. By installing ABB drives and motors, the plant was able to cut its annual energy bill by 4000 MWh annually, equating to $185,000 or 2,800 tons of CO2.
Fauji Fertilizer Bin Qasim Ltd (FFBL) - Pakistan
FFBL is a fertilizer manufacturer which is involved in meat, dairy and coal based energy generation sectors. It is using an ABB Ability System 800xA distributed control system for boiler control, balance of plant, power management and electrical equipment monitoring of its new 118MW coal power plant which supplies power and steam to its existing fertilizer complex. FFBL is now able to maximize system availability since the company can access its complete process and electrical system on a single platform, giving it better control and monitoring capabilities. Additionally, by using ABB’s Ultra-Fast Earth Switch and REA-based arc protection system (UFES) for medium-voltage switchgear, equipment damage is minimized, power restoration is faster and lives may even be saved.
Yara – Norway
Yara is a world-leading global fertilizer company. At its Posgrunn plant, communications embedded within ABB’s MNS® low voltage intelligent switchgear are helping Yara optimize electrical distribution performance and condition-based monitoring while providing detailed process and electrical information to plant operators in real time. The switchgear is also increasing electrical safety, supporting reliable power distribution, improving control and facilitating more efficient operation of a plant with over 6,000 electric motors.
Do not get left behind
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is proceeding full steam ahead within the fertilizer sector. Opportunities to improve profitability, sustainability and safety abound with digital. Companies would be wise to invest now in these solutions or they risk ceding the field to those who use digital insights to guide their operations to new heights of success.