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An expert system for optimal insertion of intensified energy saving technologies in the industrial processes

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This result is a set of software tools, procedures, rules, files, dialogues, and interfaces between these items. It is a complex system, which implements the energy integration method developed to identify the possible use of the IEST knowing the process requirements. The Expert System has been developed to organise the data transfer and the use of the different tools and to guide the user through the steps of the developed method. This system prepares the data for the requested step, executes the requested action, generates and saves the results and proposes the next steps. The communication with the user is made using HTML files with hyperlinks (for the next steps or for the explanations) or forms (when user data are needed). The use of the different tools developed is therefore "transparent" to the user; we mean by that that the user has not to be an expert in each of the steps of the developed method. ULg has developed the implementation of the EXSYS II web platform. HTML interface is used to define the problem, display and comment the results and suggest further calculations. The access to the web server is protected by user password and the different information areas are protected according to the user status (user or developer). The problem database has a proprietary data format preserving the confidentiality of the data delivered by the users. The web server manages the user requests and organises the computations that may be performed in different geographical locations. In this system different computers are used: e.g. a data base server using FILEMAKER pro in Belgium, another in Portugal and a third one in the UK. This offered the advantage that each Partner manages the information and tools he is responsible for, on his computers, while being integrated in the overall system.
This result of the EXSYS II contract consists in a set of generic databases on intensified energy saving technologies (IEST) and in the innovative methodology developed in this contract to select and optimally insert these IEST in the industrial processes. In order to enlighten the exploitation potential of this result, let us put the innovative methodology in perspective. Energy saving in industrial processes has been a concern in previous Framework Programs of the EC. The concept of Energy Integration did develop: energy analysis and synthesis has been applied to best match the unit operations together in process plants in order to avoid energy wasting. This is generally recognised as the pinch technology. This result can be regarded as an extension of this technology: experience of the contractors in EXSYS II led them to recognise that avoiding energy wasting was not sufficient, more energy saving could be achieved by selecting and optimally inserting IEST in the industrial processes. This was not an easy task, for mainly two reasons: (a) the access to quantitative information regarding existing IEST was difficult or did not exist, and, (b) there was no systematic and ordered method to solve the problem. This result is an answer to these two obstacles; it enlarges the scope and the application potential of this pinch technology extension. The methodology is intimately linked with structured technical information concerning the state of the art of a set of selected IEST (intensified energy saving technology) areas, organised in newly developed databases. The databases contain technical and non-technical information collected from the market of energy saving technologies. The IEST reports and the technology databases have been made available from a web site and also work as stand-alone applications or deliverables. The databases of the different IEST are specifically structured to allow their selection and insertion in industrial processes. Their innovative aspects are: the availability of: technical and economic information on these advanced systems, of search procedures based on process requirements definition and of ordered numerical parameter files specific for each IEST. The exploitation potential of the databases can be presented as a validated information source and as a valuable dissemination means for new advanced energy saving technologies in the process industry. This will modify the current status where the same information is dispersed, not always validated and difficult to gather. During the two years following the end of the contract –qualified as first exploitation period-, only the in-house exploitation by the partners is foreseen. The intention for the future is to create a users club, with the consent of all the partners of this contract who would accept to maintain and develop the databases and further improve the capabilities of the developed methodology. During the said first exploitation period, the "exploitation manager" will check if the partners want to be active in this club and in which way. Dissemination of the innovative methodology in scientific congresses and journals is part of the intended exploitation. The methodology has already been published in international journals by ULg-LASSC. The in house exploitation of the methodology has been facilitated by fully describing it in reports to be downloaded from the web site created for the developments and for the management of the contract. The methodology has proven its competitive advantage in various case studies, with respect to the former state of the art. It has been demonstrated that process energy integration and insertion of IEST in the design or in the renovation of processes are powerful tools to save energy in the process industry. Therefore, the methodology has a clear potential for exploitation.
Optimisation methods and computer codes were needed to find the proper sizing of the selected technologies taking the studied Process constraints and technology sizes available on the market into account. The optimisation criterion or objective function to be minimised is chosen among those available, i.e. minimum of energy, or of energy, or of cost. This result is a set of enhancements (Foreground) of three independent existing software (Background). The developments have been based on available software from other project partners, as written here above; for the developments of interfaces necessary for the integration with the IEST databases, following information is to be given: -Partner 3 did focus on the heat pumps technologies. -Partner 6 on heat exchangers. -Partner 4 on all the technologies except heat exchangers. These three tools are used for engineering studies in the field of RUE (rational use of energy). These three Partners, 3-4-6, can be considered, as references in this field, because they belong to the scientific units whose knowledge constitute the state of the art in this field. Therefore the foreground developed is a clear plus with respect to the former state of the art. The robustness of MILP is well known, even when the number of constraints is big; this is the case when the insertion of several IEST in a complex process is attempted. The use of the MILP method necessitates though, that the process and IEST constraints (modelling equations) are linear. The linear model of the process is readily obtained by a tool of Belsim, called EASY (Energy Analysis and SYnthesis) and the coding of the mathematical models of the IEST have been made linear too, before to store these in the technology databases. Without going too much in the details, for property protection reasons, let us mention that the possibility exists to use another Belsim's software, called VALI, to linearise the process model in the vicinity of the nominal process working conditions, during the sequential approach to the integration solution (Process-IEST). With respect to the current state of the art, this MILP implementation has a competitive advantage. This is why the developers are convinced of the added value of the methodology and tools developed.