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Design and optimisation of energy flexible industrial processes (Processes4Planet Partnership) (IA)


Flexibility solutions are key to achieve a renewable energy share to deliver the EU Green Deal objectives and which goes significantly beyond the current target of 32%. In the coming years, EU industries will need to adapt to the increased fluctuations in energy supply caused by the higher penetration of variable energy sources. Besides, an integrated energy system, linking different energy carriers, infrastructures and consumption sectors in the EU, will be set to deliver climate neutrality by 2050 in a cost effective way. The increased value of flexibility will offer competitive opportunities for process industries (additional revenue streams) and enable a leaner energy system.

Process flexibility and efficient energy storage are essential to account for the variable renewable energy production. When less energy is available, process industries can consume less energy or take it from storage; whereas, when there is surplus of energy, the excess energy can be consumed or stored. A fast response rate, i.e. a swift increase or decrease of the process energy consumption, is key in the shift to dynamic operating processes. To support the change of energy supply, current processes, designed to run continuously at maximum capacity, have to be adapted. Besides, energy efficiency measures will help decreasing the overall process energy demand. To leverage the flexibility in process industries, digital process control systems that optimise the process while accounting for the value of flexibility need to be implemented.

Digital tools need to be developed to attain the energy flexibility of the process, but also to exchange data with network operators and flexibility markets (through market operators, suppliers and/or aggregators), which will enable industries to provide flexibility services. Powerful digital twins based on suitable combinations of analytical models, physics-based AI or pure AI solutions need to be designed and applied. To find optimal control solutions in a minimal time, digital twins could be empowered, for example, by multi-agent systems technologies.

Moreover, the direct integration of renewable energy generation and the higher overall efficiencies will require further flexibility solutions in process industries. Onsite energy storage or conversion in the form of electricity, heat or other energy vectors can further increase an installation’s flexibility.

Proposals should address the following aspects:

  • In an existing process, identification of potential flexibility that allows an efficient and competitive operation;
  • Redesign and modification of the process to enable more flexibility in operation (e.g. process that can run faster or slower depending on the needs of the grid) or the shift from batch processes to continuous processes, etc., including the removal or adaptation of process steps that limit the flexibility;
  • Redesign and modification of the process to increase its flexibility response rate (e.g. faster ramp up or ramp down) towards a higher energy efficiency at subsystem level;
  • Development or redesign of digital process control systems, including, e.g. digital twins with integrated multi-agent systems, etc., supported by smart sensors and integrated analytical tools, to realise the flexibility of the process and to create connections to grid integration platforms;
  • Evaluation of the potential use of onsite energy storage and conversion (electricity, heat, or other energy vectors) for the proposed flexible solution and integration of such energy solutions whenever relevant and feasible;
  • Optimisation of the new process design at pilot scale.

Proposals submitted under this topic should include a business case and exploitation strategy, as outlined in the introduction to this Destination. Additionally, proposals should include a safety assessment and a life cycle assessment for the implementation of the developed technologies; and a contribution to standardisation, wherever possible.

Proposals should include activities that specifically target the collaboration with other European projects on energy flexibility in their work plan (for example, a dedicated work package or task).

In order to achieve the expected outcomes, International Cooperation is encouraged, in particular with US and Canada.

This topic implements the co-programmed European partnership Processes4Planet.

In this topic the integration of the gender dimension (sex and gender analysis) in research and innovation content is not a mandatory requirement.