Nitro Nitro

Innovation and efficiency in the Chemical Industry 4.0

See how Nitro stabilizes process, reduces maintenance and increases productivity in distillation towers with intelligent control solution from i.Systems

80% reduction in fail occurrences due to temperature variation
75% reduction in temperature variability

Nitro

Nitro is a Brazilian company that supports the global market with chemical raw materials for various industrial sectors. Headquartered in São Paulo (Brazil), the company has operations in six other countries. In more than eight decades of technological competence, Nitro works continuously to develop solutions and technologies that improve people's lives and its customers' businesses. With net revenue around BRL $1.1 billion registered in 2020, the company is recognized worldwide for the safety of its operations and follows the strictest world quality standards.

Focused on its modernization journey, in 2019, the company defined a series of strategic pillars of Industry 4.0 to guide its actions. One of them determines the search for innovation that makes sense for the search for safety, cost reduction and productivity gains. It was at this moment that Nitro's trajectory converged on a partnership with i.Systems, a specialist in the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to increase the industry's efficiency.

Challenge
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Balancing Temperature and Mixtures

One of the industrial challenges at Nitro's industrial plants was precisely to improve the acid recovery process in glass towers. These equipment receive a mixture of nitric acid, sulfuric acid and water. When heated, the towers separate these materials, which will be reused as raw material in the same production process.

The company's engineering and operations manager, Nathalia Bastos, explains that the towers are made of glass as it is a material that is resistant to the composition of acids. “Even though it is a special glass for this process, it cracks or breaks, especially when there are large variations in temperature in a short time”, she says, regarding the challenge of the operation.

In addition to precisely controlling the temperature delta, there was also the challenge of balancing the elemental mixtures. If that doesn't happen, the separation isn't done well and the process must be redone. "This imbalance was massive, so much so that the availability of one of the towers was very low, with a very high breakage rate", she says, pointing that a stationary tower represents high maintenance costs, since the parts are imported and that, furthermore, there is a limit to what it is possible to operate without recovering the acids.

Another need was to standardize the start and stop maneuvers of the process. As all these actions were performed by operators, it was necessary to define a formula to be performed, reducing the possibility of thermal shock in the towers. With all these points of attention, Nitro's industrial team began to look for a solution that would automate these processes, reducing the dependence on manual operations.

Solution
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Choosing Leaf

Nathalia recalls that, initially, Nitro used an advanced regulatory control standard tool. The solution did not meet the demand, as it worked with previous programming and offered linear control, which did not take into account any variations in the elements involved.

At the time, Nitro was in contact with i.Systems for another project. Commenting on the challenge they were facing, i.Systems' consultants proposed to carry out the project in the glass tower using Leaf, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) for advanced multivariable process control.

“We decided to test, first because of the partnership we saw at i.Systems, both commercial and technical. In addition, the value was lower than what we were working with other companies”, says Nathalia.

According to the process engineer at Nitro, Paulo Henrique Oliveira, the first step was to conceptualize the project, presenting the challenges faced to the i.Systems team. Then, the mapping of the control grids of the glass tower was carried out. “With this, we prepared the rationale for the best form of operation, defining the control loops and who would control the process”, he explains.

From there, there was a stage of construction of the operational model, with the participation of field teams and operators who, according to Oliveira, were listened to in their needs and suggestions. “They contributed to this process, helping us capture what was needed. This step-by-step has made a difference when it comes to advanced control”, he says. All these processes were closely monitored by the i.Systems team.

Leaf was programmed to meet the needs and operational models mapped together with the Nitro team. With this, specific controllers were developed for the distillation tower, in addition to new controls in relation to what was done manually. In the end, i.Systems was able to translate the operator logic into Leaf, making it the right tool for that process.

Oliveira points out that during implementation, and even after the solution went into operation, i.Systems gives very quick returns on any doubts. “The technical staff, during implementation, was very good technically, which gave us confidence. In addition, the solution-as-a-service (SaaS) contracting model also helps a lot and is ideal when we face new challenges, adhering to the concept of constant development”, he highlights.

Result
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Reducing breaks and stops

Leaf rollout began in October 2020, and by November the solution was up and running. With the technology, Nitro was able to automate its start and stop processes in the distillation tower. More than that, the process engineering team provides the input and the solution does the rest. So far, occurrences of temperature variation of more than 3 degrees per minute have been reduced by 80%.

The technology allowed for a reduction in tower stoppages and also in the acquisition of replacement parts. “In addition to the starts and stops, there is a very good performance in the automatic operation. Now, the control has fixed values, with very small deviations, which allows for more flow and speeds up the process. This has also improved a lot”, celebrates Oliveira.

Nathalia emphasizes that the project's success is already stimulating other initiatives in partnership with i.Systems. The Leaf is also being deployed to the alcohol columns, a place where there is a lot of instrumentation, and is to be expanded to a second glass tower. “Our challenge now is to ensure that in the next places there are instruments that allow us to implement advanced control. We are very satisfied with the project and the results”, she says.

Challenge
See more
Solution
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Result
See more
Balancing Temperature and Mixtures

One of the industrial challenges at Nitro's industrial plants was precisely to improve the acid recovery process in glass towers. These equipment receive a mixture of nitric acid, sulfuric acid and water. When heated, the towers separate these materials, which will be reused as raw material in the same production process.

The company's engineering and operations manager, Nathalia Bastos, explains that the towers are made of glass as it is a material that is resistant to the composition of acids. “Even though it is a special glass for this process, it cracks or breaks, especially when there are large variations in temperature in a short time”, she says, regarding the challenge of the operation.

In addition to precisely controlling the temperature delta, there was also the challenge of balancing the elemental mixtures. If that doesn't happen, the separation isn't done well and the process must be redone. "This imbalance was massive, so much so that the availability of one of the towers was very low, with a very high breakage rate", she says, pointing that a stationary tower represents high maintenance costs, since the parts are imported and that, furthermore, there is a limit to what it is possible to operate without recovering the acids.

Another need was to standardize the start and stop maneuvers of the process. As all these actions were performed by operators, it was necessary to define a formula to be performed, reducing the possibility of thermal shock in the towers. With all these points of attention, Nitro's industrial team began to look for a solution that would automate these processes, reducing the dependence on manual operations.

Choosing Leaf

Nathalia recalls that, initially, Nitro used an advanced regulatory control standard tool. The solution did not meet the demand, as it worked with previous programming and offered linear control, which did not take into account any variations in the elements involved.

At the time, Nitro was in contact with i.Systems for another project. Commenting on the challenge they were facing, i.Systems' consultants proposed to carry out the project in the glass tower using Leaf, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) for advanced multivariable process control.

“We decided to test, first because of the partnership we saw at i.Systems, both commercial and technical. In addition, the value was lower than what we were working with other companies”, says Nathalia.

According to the process engineer at Nitro, Paulo Henrique Oliveira, the first step was to conceptualize the project, presenting the challenges faced to the i.Systems team. Then, the mapping of the control grids of the glass tower was carried out. “With this, we prepared the rationale for the best form of operation, defining the control loops and who would control the process”, he explains.

From there, there was a stage of construction of the operational model, with the participation of field teams and operators who, according to Oliveira, were listened to in their needs and suggestions. “They contributed to this process, helping us capture what was needed. This step-by-step has made a difference when it comes to advanced control”, he says. All these processes were closely monitored by the i.Systems team.

Leaf was programmed to meet the needs and operational models mapped together with the Nitro team. With this, specific controllers were developed for the distillation tower, in addition to new controls in relation to what was done manually. In the end, i.Systems was able to translate the operator logic into Leaf, making it the right tool for that process.

Oliveira points out that during implementation, and even after the solution went into operation, i.Systems gives very quick returns on any doubts. “The technical staff, during implementation, was very good technically, which gave us confidence. In addition, the solution-as-a-service (SaaS) contracting model also helps a lot and is ideal when we face new challenges, adhering to the concept of constant development”, he highlights.

Reducing breaks and stops

Leaf rollout began in October 2020, and by November the solution was up and running. With the technology, Nitro was able to automate its start and stop processes in the distillation tower. More than that, the process engineering team provides the input and the solution does the rest. So far, occurrences of temperature variation of more than 3 degrees per minute have been reduced by 80%.

The technology allowed for a reduction in tower stoppages and also in the acquisition of replacement parts. “In addition to the starts and stops, there is a very good performance in the automatic operation. Now, the control has fixed values, with very small deviations, which allows for more flow and speeds up the process. This has also improved a lot”, celebrates Oliveira.

Nathalia emphasizes that the project's success is already stimulating other initiatives in partnership with i.Systems. The Leaf is also being deployed to the alcohol columns, a place where there is a lot of instrumentation, and is to be expanded to a second glass tower. “Our challenge now is to ensure that in the next places there are instruments that allow us to implement advanced control. We are very satisfied with the project and the results”, she says.

Paulo Henrique Oliveira
Nitro - Process Engineer
The technical staff, during implementation, was very good technically, which gave us confidence. In addition, the solution-as-a-service (SaaS) contracting model also helps a lot and is ideal when we face new challenges, adhering to the concept of constant development.
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