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MAN Energy Solutions and thyssenkrupp to work on autonomous operation of turbomachinery

| By Gerald Ondrey

MAN Energy Solutions SE (Augsburg, Germany) and the thyssenkrupp business unit Uhde (Dortmund, Germany) are looking to drive forward the development, testing and marketing of autonomous turbomachinery systems operation for the nitric acid production industry and have signed a cooperation agreement to this effect. The two major German companies will use artificial intelligence (AI) to aid decision-making in nitric-acid plant operation. It will involve taking real-time account of data, such as product price, yield, efficiency, emissions, energy costs, process stability, and forecast maintenance requirements.

“Combining human expertise with artificial intelligence is a milestone for the process industry. Autonomous operation of turbomachinery offers advantages in efficiency, machine availability and health, as well as emissions reductions. AI algorithms ensure that machines and plants run reliably and at the optimum operating point at all times. This leads to fewer failures, greater efficiency and lower operating costs. In the final development stage, human intervention is only necessary for maintenance — which in turn leads to lower travel costs and reduced emissions. The development of autonomy thus combines the two strategic targets of digitalization and decarbonization,” explains Uwe Lauber, CEO of MAN Energy Solutions. “MAN Energy Solutions already holds a leading market position when it comes to the unmanned operation of complex compressor trains. Through our cooperation with thyssenkrupp, we hope to further consolidate our lead.”

Sami Pelkonen, CEO of the business unit Uhde says, “As one of the leading suppliers of nitric acid plants, our cooperation with MAN Energy Solutions will soon open up a whole new world of possibilities for operating the plants in a way that is both intelligent and resource-friendly. Our technology and digitalization competences will be a perfect match in achieving this.”

Within the framework of this cooperation, the AI algorithms and advanced automation systems developed by thyssenkrupp Uhde and MAN Energy Solutions, as well as a digital controller for MAN turbomachinery systems, will be further developed, tested and interconnected to form a joint digital technology solution that is market-ready.

MAN Compressor train for nitric acid applications (Source; thyssenkrupp)

“In the 2020 pandemic year, MAN Energy Solutions was able to remotely commission complex compressor trains (photo) using digital technologies based on MAN CEON. The company has also already successfully demonstrated the continuous unmanned operation of its turbomachinery systems with its subsea compressor systems in the Norwegian Sea,” adds Jörg Massopust, head of Digital Sales & Alliances at MAN Energy Solutions. “Together with thyssenkrupp, we now want to take the next step and enable the development from unmanned to autonomous operation. We later plan to apply the experience gained together in the nitric acid industry to other segments.”

Thore Lohmann, head of Operating Unit Fertilizer and Methanol at thyssenkrupp Uhde, concludss, “Digitalization is a topic that is becoming increasingly important. Our focus here is on the use of artificial intelligence to improve product characteristics, consumption figures and maintenance intervals, as well as increased automation. That’s why our cooperation with MAN Energy Solutions fits perfectly with our strategy.”