System 800xA for Finnish bio-ethanol producer

Remote control and monitoring of biofuel production


Finnish company St1 Biofuels Oy becomes a pioneer in producing bio-ethanol from food waste. The company’s new bio-ethanol plant in Finland is run by ABB’s 800xA automation system and frequency converters.

Biofuel and food challenges

The debate among environmentalists around the topic of biofuels has much to do with sugar cane and corn, the main sources of ethanol in the US. How allocating optimum farmland to their harvesting for biofuel purposes diverts agricultural production away from food crops in a hungry world, or lead to the escalation of food prices, especially in developing countries, is another major issue.

But what if bio-ethanol is made without food crops?
What if residues of food production, which are classified as organic wastes, rejects or nonfood by-products, are instead used to produce bio-ethanol? 

This breakthrough in producing the next-generation of biofuels is at hand, starting in Finland. ABB’s System 800xA is the automation system running the seven plants manufacturing bio-ethanol using food wastes.

Finland’s pursuit of responsible alternative energy production

Main facts

Industry Chemicals - specialty and consumer products
Customer St1 Biofuels Oy
Country Finland
  • System 800xA
  • PcDeviceLib
  • Process Data Management
  • Remote operations
Mr. Risto Savolainen, St1 Biofuels Engineering Director
"We chose ABB as partner because it understands and anticipates the changing dynamics and demands of technology."
St1 Biofuels Oy started as a joint venture of St1 and Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT), rolled out a Finnish-developed technology which converts a range of organic wastes and biomass materials into ethanol. 

The RE85 blend, produced using St1’s Etanolix® production plant, has been shown to have one of the lowest carbon footprints of any biofuel production technology: as low as 0.01kg CO2 per kilogram of oil equivalent (kgoe). This is much lower that the 3.8kg CO2/kgoe for fossil fuel diesels and 1.48kg CO2 /kgoe for corn-based ethanol production. 

The fuel can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 80%. Used by flexible-fuel vehicles, in spite of higher consumption due to the approximately 30% lower energy content, the RE85 can also cheaper by milage than regular 95 octane unleaded gasoline, says Patrick Pitkänen Mikko Ahokas, Head of Business Development at St1 Biofuels Oy.
The stand-alone Lappeenranta plant uses bakery and sweet factory waste.

The Närpiö plant is integrated into a potato flake factory. Both plants produce 1,5 million litres of bioethanol annually.

ST1 has a distribution network in Finland, Sweden and Norway.

Remote control of several plants and real-time data collection

The Etanolix® technology performs two processes simultaneously and on site, or close to the sources of the raw material (i.e. biowaste or food waste). This means less operational energy consumption and less transportation or landfill costs incurred by biowaste producers. 

The ethanol distillation process, from fermentation to vaporization, is controlled and monitored by the System 800xA automation system developed by ABB. 

With an annual production capacity of a million liters of ethanol, the stand-alone or integrated ethanol plant can be unmanned but operated remotely from St1‘s production headquarters in Hamina using System 800xA. 

In particular, ABB’s automation system communicates with the ethanol plants via a private virtual network, collecting plant data with ABB’s real-time database system for continual monitoring, reporting and analysis. It controls everything – from when valves open and close, to the activation of safety locks, alarms and automatic cleaning. The 800xA automation systems of seven (7) Etanolix production plants are connected and integrated by the 800xA automation system in the Hamina plant.

“The ethanol production process is implemented in a new way. We chose ABB as the partner because it understands and anticipates the changing dynamics and demands of technology,” says St1 Biofuels Engineering Director Mr. Risto Savolainen.

ABB’s automation system communicates with the ethanol plants via a private virtual network, collecting plant data with ABB’s real-time database system for continual monitoring, reporting and analysis.

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