CCS, and Government funding for innovation

The UK Government has announced that it will provide GBP100m ($160m) for FEED work on two Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects, which by 2015 will be submitted for review in a GBP1Bn commercialization competition, which will lead to support for the design and construction of commercial scale CCS. The two initial projects supported are at the Peterhead natural gas driven CCGT power station, in Scotland, and at the Drax solid fuel power station, in England.

All initial press coverage was devoted to the Scottish investment, as the London-based UK Government is trying to show how they support Scotland, in the face of a possible Scottish devolution vote in September. Here Shell and Scottish and Southern Electricity plan to capture up to 10m tonnes of CO2 over 10 years, ie over 85% of the CO2 emissions, and transport this by pipeline offshore to the depleted Goldeneye gas reservoir, 100km away under the North Sea. The gas could then potentially be used for enhanced oil recovery projects in other North Sea oil wells. The CO2 capture process here is based on the use of amine solvents to treat the exhaust gases.

The second FEED project financed is the White Rose CCS Project, run by Capture Power Ltd, a consortium of Alstom, Drax Power and BOC. The project will involve the creation of a new oxy-fuel combustion plant, where coal is burnt in pure oxygen to produce a stream of 2m tonnes a year of pure CO2: it would be based at Drax power station, which is a coal and biomass fuelled plant, located inland at Selby, Yorkshire. A new 17m tonnes pa pipeline by the Yorkshire Humber CCS Trunkline would transport the gas to storage offshore in saline aquifers – this is being developed by National Grid Carbon Ltd, and would serve a cluster of CCS plants around the Humber estuary.

US support follows UK and European format

In the UK, the Government-funded Technology Strategy Board suggests which areas of technology and innovation should receive encouragement: for each identified major subject area, a ‘Knowledge Transfer Network’ is established, to facilitate the relevant UK innovation communities of manufacturers, users and researchers to connect, collaborate and find out about new opportunities in key research and technology sectors. Priority areas are established where seed funding is made available to promote further projects. Typical relevant areas are advanced materials; the digital economy; high value manufacturing; energy and greenhouse gases; electronics, sensors and photonics. The EU runs similar schemes, for example on robots, and Carbon capture/storage (CCS).

Last Month the INSIDER reported on a visit by President Obama to Vacon Drives in North Carolina, where he started the second manufacturing innovation hub, concentrating on energy efficient electronic systems. In another presentation he has announced that four new US hubs are planned this year. A hub in Detroit, Michigan will concentrate on advanced lightweight materials, and a major hub in Chicago, started with $70m of Dept of Defense funding, but supplemented by $250m of State and private funding, will concentrate on ‘Digital Manufacturing design and Innovation’ taking advantage of digital technology and data management. This already involves 40 companies, 23 Universities and 200 small businesses. Obama believes Germany has over 60 such hubs, which develop the ideas, then the production, and then train the workers: so why should the USA not learn from this model, to re-invigorate US manufacturing industry? Obama hopes that Congress will follow his lead.

Shell developments with CCS

Shell is already participating in a number of CCS projects worldwide including the largest CO2 capture demonstration facility in the world, the European CO2 Technology Centre in Mongstad, Norway. In January 2013, Cansolv Technologies Inc (a Shell group company), working in partnership with RWE npower, successfully captured the first tonne of CO2 at the Aberthaw Power Station in South Wales, the world’s first integrated sulphur dioxide and CO2 capture plant. Cansolv Technologies is also providing the CO2 capture technology for the SaskPower Boundary Dam project. This C$1.35Bn development will see the integration of a rebuilt coal-fired 110MW power generation unit with carbon capture technology. The facility will be fully commercial by the summer of 2014, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1m tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per annum. Also in Canada, Shell announced plans in 2012 to progress with the Quest CCS project.

Regular news on Process Automation and Control topics is presented in the INSIDER monthly newsletter, supplied on subscription by Spitzer and Boyes LLC: Nick Denbow is the European correspondent for the INSIDER. For more information please consulthttp://www.iainsider.co.uk or http://www.spitzerandboyes.com

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Ineos plans to make a killing with shale gas

It was in the INSIDER last November that we reported on the Ineos Grangemouth refinery and petrochemical plant labour problems, which arose from the turndown in the oil quantity being delivered from the North Sea via the BP Forties pipeline. Because of that uncertain supply, and the ethane feedstock supply contract which runs out in 2017, the petrochemical plant had an uncertain future.

So Ineos have said that they will look to import ethane from the USA, and are conducting studies for the construction of a receiving terminal in Grangemouth. Meanwhile, the company have other European cracker complexes which also require ethane supplies, to produce ethylene for the European market as a whole. First priority has been to gain ethane supplies for the Rafnes (Norway) cracker, and one 15 year contract has been signed with Range Resources (USA) for 400,000 tpa ethane, to be delivered via the Mariner East pipeline to Marcus Hook in Philadelphia. From there it will be shipped in three new custom-built (by Evergas) ethane tankers, to Rafnes. At the Rafnes facility, TGE Gas Engineering of Germany is constructing a new ethane storage tank of 17,000 tonnes capacity, with a completion date of December 2014, bringing total site storage to 30,000 tonnes. US shipments are expected to start in earnest in early 2015.

The cost savings are significant

The drive behind this project is the cost savings achievable with US shale gas. Already Rafnes produces ethylene at a cost of $950/tonne, ie quoted as well below the European average. Ineos Olefins and Polymers Europe expects the Rafnes costs to drop to near $500/tonne, with the access to low cost US shale-gas derived feedstocks.

So Ineos is looking at further expansion plans: FEED for a 33,000 tonne storage unit at Grangemouth is being quoted by Babcock International, in competition with TGE, and another tanker build project is being brought forward, with two further in consideration. At Rafnes an expansion of the cracker capacity to 50,000 tpa will be completed by end 2015. A further ethane supply contract has been signed with Consol Energy, and there are discussions with other suppliers continuing.

David Thompson, Ineos procurement and supply chain director, commented “This [Consol] contract adds to our supply portfolio providing for long term sourcing of advantageously priced US ethane for our European crackers. It will allow us to continue to consolidate the competitiveness of Ineos ethylene production in Europe.”

The future for Grangemouth

The options for Grangemouth are still open, and could involve trans-shipment from Rafnes. Plant modifications costing GBP300m would be needed to prepare the Grangemouth site to change the feedstock to shale gas-derived ethane. Ineos has four crackers, with further plants in France and Germany as well, giving a total production capacity of 3 million tpa, sourced from both oil and gas feedstocks. So there is a large market demand for efficient low cost plant operations.

Natural shale gas and oil shale reserves occur in hard dense deposits of shale, which were formed from ancient sea basins millions of years ago. Shale is more than just natural gas: the Energy Information Agency (EIA) reports: “Shale plays known primarily for natural gas production – or where horizontal drilling initially targeted natural gas – are also seeing accelerating oil-focused drilling.” In the North Dakota shale gas area “total oil production has approximately tripled since 2005”. Shale gas is sought in geographic areas where there can be natural gas, and shale oil reserves, in shale rock.

The history tells a story

From 1860, Young’s Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company Limited produced oil from shale or coal by “treating bituminous coals to obtain paraffine therefrom”. This company was based in Boghead, near Bathgate in Scotland – the centre of the shale oil industry in the UK that continued until 1920, when the six surviving shale oil companies were purchased by the forerunner of BP. In 1924 the Grangemouth refinery was positioned there, largely because of the large local pool of skilled workers, trained in refining in the Scottish shale oil industry. A map of the shale oil pits and mines can be seen on www.scottishshale.co.uk, and they are spread across the lowlands from Dundee to East Kilbride, with Grangemouth in the middle. Production from 1880 to 1940 totalled around 2m tpa.

So you might be forgiven for thinking that Ineos might be sitting in the middle of an area where shale gas, equivalent to that being processed into ethane for them in the USA, might be right under their feet, associated with the already proven shale oil deposits. Ineos are very forward thinking.

  • The US Energy Department has approved exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Cameron LNG project of Sempra Energy. This approval of up to 1.7 billion cubic feet/day from the Louisiana terminal to countries with which the US does not have a free-trade agreement is the sixth such approval from the US since 2011. The total allowed LNG export level has reached a potential 8.5 billion cubic feet/day.
  • The Nexen Buzzard field, 60 miles northeast of Aberdeen, is the UK’s highest producing oilfield, sending 160,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day via the Forties pipeline to the Kinneal terminal for processing at Grangemouth. It began production in 2007. ABB has recently won a service contract to support the Integrated Control and Safety System (ICSS) on-board the Nexen Buzzard platform. The contract offers a number of new advanced services such as ServicePort (system and process optimisation) and ServicePro (asset management) and includes a maintenance management package with an associated KPI reporting tool. ABB will also host a full scale replica of Nexen’s offshore control network in their Aberdeen office, to perform configuration management and comprehensive testing of all software changes prior to installation on site.

Regular news on Process Automation and Control topics is presented in the INSIDER monthly newsletter, supplied on subscription by Spitzer and Boyes LLC: Nick Denbow is the European correspondent for the INSIDER. For more information please consulthttp://www.iainsider.co.uk or http://www.spitzerandboyes.com

Metso investment in South Korea

In the December INSIDER, page 2, Metso reported a breakthrough, with new orders in the South Korean energy market for boiler control systems. They now are following this up with investment into a new green-field global valve technology centre in Chungju, South Korea, to open in September. It is anticipated that this will strengthen the Metso control valve and service capabilities for customers in the oil and gas and power industries. The new centre will also house research and development, engineering, and service support units for South Korean EPC companies, which play a major rôle in many projects worldwide. 

The new technology centre builds on the foundation provided by the globe valve technology and service company that Metso acquired in South Korea in 2012. This investment is a continuation of the ambitious growth strategy to develop the Metso valve business, which saw a globe valve technology centre opened in Shanghai in 2010 and another opened in Finland in 2011. In 2012 there followed in a new valve supply and service centre in India, and the completion of expanded valve production premises in the USA. Cutting-edge industrial valve technology and supply centres are operating in Brazil and Germany, and there are also 55 service hubs and 30 valve service centres around the world.

INEOS plans to make a killing with shale gas

It was in the INSIDER last November that we reported on the Ineos Grangemouth refinery and petrochemical plant labour problems, which arose from the turndown in the oil quantity being delivered from the North Sea via the BP Forties pipeline. Because of that uncertain supply, and the ethane feedstock supply contract which runs out in 2017, the petrochemical plant had an uncertain future.

So Ineos have said that they will look to import ethane from the USA, and are conducting studies for the construction of a receiving terminal in Grangemouth. Meanwhile, the company have other European cracker complexes, some of which also require with ethane feedstock supplies, to produce ethylene for the European market as a whole. First priority has been to gain ethane supplies for the Rafnes (Norway) cracker, and one 15 year contract has been signed with Range Resources (USA) for 400,000 tpa ethane, to be delivered via the Mariner East pipeline to Marcus Hook in Philadelphia. From there it will be shipped in three new custom-built (by Evergas) ethane tankers, to Rafnes. At the Rafnes facility, TGE Gas Engineering of Germany is constructing a new ethane storage tank of 17,000 tonnes capacity, with a completion date of December 2014, bringing total site storage to 30,000 tonnes. US shipments are expected to start in earnest in early 2015.

The cost savings are significant

The drive behind this project is the cost savings achievable with US shale gas. Already Rafnes produces ethylene at a cost of $950/tonne, ie quoted as well below the European average. Ineos Olefins and Polymers Europe expects the Rafnes costs to drop to near $500/tonne, with the access to low cost US shale-gas derived feedstocks.

So Ineos is looking at further expansion plans: FEED for a 33,000 tonne storage unit at Grangemouth is being quoted by Babcock International, in competition with TGE, and another tanker build project is being brought forward, with two further in consideration. At Rafnes an expansion of the cracker capacity to 50,000 tpa will be completed by end 2015. A further ethane supply contract has been signed with Consol Energy, and there are discussions with other suppliers continuing.

David Thompson, Ineos procurement and supply chain director, commented “This [Consol] contract adds to our supply portfolio providing for long term sourcing of advantageously priced US ethane for our European crackers. It will allow us to continue to consolidate the competitiveness of Ineos ethylene production in Europe.”

The future for Grangemouth

The options for Grangemouth are still open, and could involve trans-shipment from Rafnes. Plant modifications costing GBP300m would be needed to prepare the Grangemouth site to change the feedstock to shale gas-derived ethane. Ineos has four crackers, with further plants in France and Germany as well, giving a quoted total production capacity of 3 million tpa (although this sounds a very high figure), sourced from both oil and gas feedstocks. So there is a large market demand for efficient low cost plant operations.

Natural shale gas and oil shale reserves occur in hard dense deposits of shale, which were formed from ancient sea basins millions of years ago. Shale is more than just natural gas: the Energy Information Agency (EIA) reports: “Shale plays known primarily for natural gas production – or where horizontal drilling initially targeted natural gas – are also seeing accelerating oil-focused drilling.” In the North Dakota (USA) shale gas area “total oil production has approximately tripled since 2005”. Shale gas is sought in geographic areas where there can be natural gas, and shale oil reserves, in shale rock.

The history tells a story

From 1860, Young’s Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company Limited produced oil from shale or coal by “treating bituminous coals to obtain paraffine therefrom”. This company was based in Boghead, near Bathgate in Scotland – the centre of the shale oil industry in the UK that continued until 1920, when the six surviving shale oil companies were purchased by the forerunner of BP. In 1924 the Grangemouth refinery was positioned there, largely because of the large local pool of skilled workers, trained in refining in the Scottish shale oil industry. A map of the shale oil pits and mines can be seen on www.scottishshale.co.uk, and they are spread across the lowlands from Dundee to East Kilbride, with Grangemouth in the middle. Production from 1880 to 1940 totalled around 2m tpa.

So you might be forgiven for thinking that Ineos might be sitting in the middle of an area where shale gas, equivalent to that being processed into ethane for them in the USA, might be right under their feet, associated with the already proven shale oil deposits. Ineos are very forward thinking, so maybe this might come into their planning some time.

  • The US Energy Department has approved exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Cameron LNG project of Sempra Energy. This approval of up to 1.7 billion cubic feet/day from the Louisiana terminal to countries with which the US does not have a free-trade agreement is the sixth such approval from the US since 2011. The total allowed LNG export level has reached a potential 8.5 billion cubic feet/day.
  • The Nexen Buzzard field, 60 miles northeast of Aberdeen, is the UK’s highest producing oilfield, sending 160,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day via the Forties pipeline to the Kinneal terminal for processing at Grangemouth. It began production in 2007. ABB has recently won a service contract to support the Integrated Control and Safety System (ICSS) on-board the Nexen Buzzard platform. The contract offers a number of new advanced services such as ServicePort (system and process optimisation) and ServicePro (asset management) and includes a maintenance management package with an associated KPI reporting tool. ABB will also host a full scale replica of Nexen’s offshore control network in their Aberdeen office, to perform configuration management and comprehensive testing of all software changes prior to installation on site.
  • The Ineos plans have had a spin-off benefit for their main competitor in Europe, Borealis AG, who have just negotiated a new 7 year supply contract for ethane supplies from Statoil’s gas plant at Karsto in Norway, at much reduced prices. Borealis ceo Mark Garrett said “We think it’s great Ineos is doing it, as it’s helped us in our other negotiations.”

CCS and Government funding for innovation

The UK Government has announced that it will provide GBP100m ($160m) for FEED work on two Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects, which by 2015 will be submitted for review in a GBP1Bn commercialization competition, which will lead to support for the design and construction of commercial scale CCS. The two initial projects supported are at the Peterhead natural gas driven CCGT power station, in Scotland, and at the Drax solid fuel power station, in England.

Peterhead CCGT CCS Project

All initial press coverage was devoted to the Scottish investment, as the London-based UK Government is trying to show how they support Scotland, in the face of a possible Scottish devolution vote in September. Here Shell and Scottish and Southern Electricity plan to capture up to 10m tonnes of CO2 over 10 years, ie over 85% of the CO2 emissions, and transport this by pipeline offshore to the depleted Goldeneye gas reservoir, 100km away under the North Sea. The gas could then potentially be used for enhanced oil recovery projects in other North Sea oil wells. The CO2 capture process here is based on the use of amine solvents to treat the exhaust gases.

White Rose CCS Project

The second FEED project financed is the White Rose CCS Project, run by Capture Power Ltd, a consortium of Alstom, Drax Power and BOC. The project will involve the creation of a new oxy-fuel combustion plant, where coal is burnt in pure oxygen to produce a stream of 2m tonnes a year of pure CO2: it would be based at Drax power station, which is a coal and biomass fuelled plant, located inland at Selby, Yorkshire. A new 17m tonnes pa pipeline by the Yorkshire Humber CCS Trunkline would transport the gas to storage offshorein saline aquifers – this is being developed by National Grid Carbon Ltd, and would serve a cluster of CCS plants around the Humber estuary.

Other CCS Projects by Shell

Shell is already participating in a number of CCS projects worldwide including the largest CO2 capture demonstration facility in the world, the European CO2 Technology Centre in Mongstad, Norway.  In January 2013, Cansolv Technologies Inc (a Shell group company), working in partnership with RWE npower, successfully captured the first tonne of CO2 at the Aberthaw Power Station in South Wales, the world’s first integrated sulphur dioxide and CO2 capture plant. Cansolv Technologies is also providing the CO2 capture technology for the SaskPower Boundary Dam project. This C$1.35Bn development will see the integration of a rebuilt coal-fired 110MW power generation unit with carbon capture technology. The facility will be fully commercial by the summer of 2014, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1m tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per annum. Also in Canada, Shell announced plans in 2012 to progress with the Quest CCS project.

Different approaches between the UK and USA over funding

In the UK, the Government-funded Technology Strategy Board suggests which areas of technology and innovation should receive encouragement: for each identified major subject area, a ‘Knowledge Transfer Network’ is established, to facilitate the relevant UK innovation communities of manufacturers, users and researchers to connect, collaborate and find out about new opportunities in key research and technology sectors. Priority areas are established where seed funding is made available to promote further projects. Typical relevant areas are advanced materials; the digital economy; high value manufacturing; energy and greenhouse gases; electronics, sensors and photonics.  The EU runs similar schemes, for example on robots, and Carbon capture/storage (CCS).

Last Month the INSIDER reported on a visit by President Obama to Vacon Drives in North Carolina, where he started the second manufacturing innovation hub, concentrating on energy efficient electronic systems. In another presentation he has announced that four new US hubs are planned this year. A hub in Detroit, Michigan will concentrate on advanced lightweight materials, and a major hub in Chicago, started with $70m of Dept of Defense funding, but supplemented by $250m of State and private funding, will concentrate on ‘Digital Manufacturing design and Innovation’ taking advantage of digital technology and data management. This already involves 40 companies, 23 Universities and 200 small businesses. Obama believes Germany has over 60 such hubs, which develop the ideas, then the production, and then train the workers: so why should the USA not learn from this model, to re-invigorate US manufacturing industry? Obama hopes that Congress will follow his lead.

 

 

UK food industry warms up to robotics

A Comment by Chris Sumner, Managing Director of Fanuc UK and Vice President of Fanuc Europe

The adoption of robotics over the last ten years has rapidly increased in sectors where fast and accurate assembly has been a top priority. The latest figures published by the British Automation and Robotics Association (BARA) also points to a recent acceleration in the deployment of robotics by UK food manufacturers, revealing a 60% increase in food sector adoption in 2013 compared to 2000**.

Reviewing the global industrial robot sales picture across all sectors, the President of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), Dr. Shinsuke Sakakibara, expresses his optimism for upcoming growth: “The robotics industry is looking into a bright future!  The IFR Statistical Department expects that between 2014 and 2016 worldwide robot sales will increase by about 6% on average per year. In 2016, the annual supply of industrial robots will reach more than 190,000 units.” Just ten years ago, global sales figures were hovering around 80,000. So, what’s behind this recent boom? Industry experts attribute it to three key factors – factory modernisation, increases in production capacity and rising demand from a number of emerging markets.

Times are most certainly changing highlights Grant Collier at BARA: “The latest IFR World Robotics Industrial Robots 2013 Report* illustrates that Europe is still lagging behind Asia, where sales of robots were more than double Europe’s 2012 figure of 41,200. Japan alone sold more than 28,700 units in 2012.” Across all sectors in the UK, the number of robot transactions in 2012 grew to 2305**.

Stimulating UK interest in automation

Engagement in robotics and momentum really began to pick up in 2010, when members of the Engineering and Machinery Alliance (EAMA), with support from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), commissioned an industry study. Having polled a broad spectrum of manufacturers in Spain, Germany, Sweden and the UK, the study concluded that the main reasons for UK manufacturers’ investment reluctance in modern manufacturing technologies linked to lack of knowledge, skills and confidence.

Responding to these recommendations, the British government initiated the Automating Manufacturing Programme. They put £600k on the table, giving BARA the funds to engage with UK manufacturers and provide impartial advice on the implementation of automation solutions. The programme ran for 18 months, attracting the interest of 366 companies, who took up the free operational audit followed by implementation support. Approximately 40% of those came from the food sector. BARA’s 2013 sales statistics now reveals a 60% uplift of robotic adoption in the food industry, indicating that confidence is at an all-time high.

Shifting perceptions

On the frontline, Fanuc UK Managing Director Chris Sumner is also noticing a marked increase in uptake. “While high speed, accurate and agile systems are all key benefits of a pick and place robot, the most recent demands from producers relate to food safety and the use of robots to improve hygiene during the manufacturing process,” says Chris. “Although IP67K certified robots have been commonplace for many years, the very nature of a robot arm, with its many crevices and less durable construction materials, has in the past prevented it from working in harsh food environments.” Fanuc is one of the few suppliers in the marketplace right now that has an IP69K certified system. Its new M-2iA delta style assembly robot is capable of operating in high-pressure, high-temperature wash-down environments, meeting individual Retailer Codes of Practice (COP) and the latest hygiene and product line integrity requirements set out by the British Retail Consortium.

Nowadays, robotic food systems are faster, and more compact and affordable. They have brains, often referred to as controllers, which can manage up to four robot arms from a single CPU, to improve production efficiencies. Some also have vision systems, which food manufacturers are realising is of great benefit, as the robot can mirror the hand-eye coordination of a human and accurately pick random products off a moving conveyor, reducing waste and leading to higher production efficiencies. Fanuc have integrated their iRVision into the controller, which means manufacturers don’t need to invest in additional resources, such as third-party software or an external PC.  Vision technologies like this also enable food companies to incorporate features such as visual line tracking and barcode reading into their robotic setups.

The latest generation of pick and place robots often contain fewer moving parts – 20% in Fanuc’s case. This has also contributed to the fall in prices, enabling manufacturers to recoup their outlay, often within 12 months. When you start crunching the numbers and consider that the lifespan of a Fanuc robot is typically 25 years, it is an attractive return on investment. What’s more, because robotic systems can easily be updated with new software and a selection of different end effectors depending on the task, its occupation can be quickly changed to keep pace with packaging trends and product brand developments.

Workforce injuries caused by performing arduous and often repetitive tasks, often in cold environments, is another common issue that robots help to eliminate. Equipped with sanitised grippers and vision systems, robots provide improved placement and product integrity. By removing the human element, manufacturers can significantly reduce workforce ailments like carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. Furthermore, in upstream processing, such as operating directly on animal carcasses, a robot can deliver consistent and concise cuts and won’t suffer from fatigue or lose concentration, which again significantly reduces accidental injuries.

How robots affect workforce moral and the number of jobs available on production lines has been another sticking point for some.  IFR General Secretary Gudrun Litzenberger comments: “Productivity and competitiveness are indispensable for a manufacturing enterprise to be successful in the global market … and whilst certain jobs may be reduced by robotics and automation… more are created.” In fact, the latest study by the International Federation of Robotics forecasts that two million jobs will be created globally in the next eight years because of the robotics industry***. What’s more, this study predicts that between 60,000 and 80,000 new activity jobs will be created in the food industry alone from 2012 to 2016.

Chris adds: “Re-training staff to operate robots, not only increases a worker’s skill set, it creates renewed vigour. It certainly provides a greater sense of job satisfaction, compared to completing the same task manually.” As with many UK companies, Fanuc continually invests in future skills and is tackling the skills shortages in the engineering and manufacturing sectors identified by City & Guilds in 2013. The company offers an apprentice and degree student ‘sandwich year’ programme and recently welcome four more young people. Several of their earlier apprentices have progressed internally – Michelle Bottrill was Fanuc’s first and is now their Parts, Training and Service Sales Manager.

While it has been on the radar for several decades now, it appears that the sector is really starting to warm up to the idea of robots in food manufacturing. Looking at this wider picture, it is clear that the intelligent deployment of automation can increase safety processes and decrease the chances of downtime or production shortfall. “Without robotics, it would be impossible to keep production and products in the food industry at a continuously high level,” concludes Chris.

SOURCES

* IFR World Robotics Industrial Robots 2013 Report- The robotics industry is looking into a bright future http://www.ifr.org/news/ifr-press-release/the-robotics-industry-is-looking-into-a-bright-future-551/

** British Automation and Robotics Association (BARA) 2013 Full Year Report

*** IFR’s recent study “Positive Impact of Industrial Robots on Employment” January 2013 http://www.bara.org.uk/pdf/2013/IFR_Update_Study_Robot_creates_Jobs_2013.pdf

The German view of the Hannover Fair 2014?

It does appear that the German organizers of the Hannover Fair 2014 and the German editors attending their press conference in advance of the event early in April have not quite understood the basic idea of hosting the “World’s leading trade fair” and thereby encouraging the overseas visitors to attend, and adopt German ideas into their factories. At least the press conference presentations, and then the questions, were dubbed into English for overseas on-line viewers: I have to admit to relying on the accuracy of this translation, which may explain some of the more extreme statements!

Dr Jochen Köckler, a Board member of Deutsche Messe, the organizers, gave the main presentation. The theme of the event this year is “Integrated Industry – Next Steps”, which shows the progress from last year’s motto, “Integrated Industry”. Dr Köckler was positive about the prospects for the coming year, with energy resources and re-industrialization progressing in all economies. He characterized the USA as benefiting from fracking, giving cheaper energy, and the possible result being re-shoring of production, with advanced manufacturing, making a very important market. China has moved into nuclear technology, and with the current increases in wages is seeking automation and high-tech opportunities – China was the Deutsche Messe partner in 2012. In Germany, there has been an energy turnaround, moving to a combination of renewables and conventional power sources. This is in line with the EU Commission requirement for 27% of power being from renewables by 2030. The Association of German Engineering Companies predict a growth in their output of +3% by value in the current year, after a very difficult time in the last two years. This is not necessarily the same as seen by the automation companies, regularly reported on by the INSIDER.

The four main exhibition areas in the 2014 show, which is forecast to exceed the 4872 stands seen at the 2013 show, will be Industrial Automation and IT; Energy and Environmental Technology; Industrial Supply; and Research & Technology. An entire Hall, #17, will be devoted to robots and the automated factory.

Partnered with the Netherlands

The Netherlands are the chosen partner country for the Hannover Fair this year, and so Monique van Daalen, the Ambassador from the Netherlands to Germany, explained that they represent the most important trade partner to Germany, in both directions. The Netherlands has many niche industry specialist suppliers used by German factories, and is a prime source of innovation in energy technology, such as renewable wind power. Van Daalen also reminded us that The Netherlands invented the microscope in the 16th Century. This year there would be 200 Dutch stands attending, compared to 120 last year: but there is certain to be a lot more orange evident in the banners at this year’s event.

Industry 4.0 and the SmartFactory

Prof Detlef Zühlke of the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence, and also Chairman of the Executive board of the SmartFactory KLeV, to be on display in Hall 8 at the Hannover Fair, explained that his project started some time ago (quoted as in 2005), but that as with any other major development, market pull was needed to get the idea implemented in practice. He explained the background thinking to “Industry 4.0”, which was interesting, in the way it was expressed:

Industry 1.0 was the harnessing of steam power in 1783

Industry 2.0 was the conveyor belt, as introduced by Henry Ford in 1913

Industry 3.0 was electric automation dating from 1954

Industry 4.0 is IT and the Internet of Things [presumably dated sometime between 2005 and 2014!]

Prof Zühlke also explained the time development profile of new technologies, looking like a tidal wave, the sharp rise at the leading edge being the rise to the ‘peak of inflated expectations’, and the trough behind that peak being the ‘trough of disillusionment’. At the moment the Industry 4.0 is on the steep slope up to the peak of inflated expectations. One aspect of the technology that he identified as a major priority for current work was the topic of ‘location awareness of mobile devices’, but there was no comment about any such topics known as to be shown at the 2014 Fair.

Questions from the German Editors

The first question seemed fairly pointed: it asked why Dr Köckler had even bothered to mention nuclear energy, when the German people and the Government had decided to drop all nuclear activity. He responded that ‘the industry needs to offer the technology to the people who wanted to still be involved with it’, that the German ‘policy does not stop us showing this technology’ [at the Fair]. A pragmatic business approach that seems not to have been appreciated by the press.

In the second question the editor asked why Dr Köckler had not mentioned 3D printers, when last year the show made a feature of them. The response was that they were still there, still would be on show. Full stop.

Then another German Editor asked about the interest level in Industry 4.0. The response was that Germany invented Industry 4.0, so “we should implement it!” The follow up sentence explained that the threat was that the USA was waking up, with the implication that if Germany did not implement the ideas then the USA would do it first. This rumbled on with a comment that obviously implied the UK was not a threat in terms of moving forward with these ideas, because “The UK is closed-down”. So obviously the opinion would seem to be that there is not much point in attracting UK visitors to the Hannover Fair!

Finally a sensible question came from an Intech Editor, asking about cyber security with Industry 4.0. Prof Zühlke said this was a very important question, and there is a need for answers: ‘We have to create trust’.

Before that trust there needs to be confidence in our colleagues across the industry…. But the Hannover Fair is one of the world’s leading trade fairs, still.