Energy from Waste: An interview with Patrick McConville, Business Development Manager at Asset Guardian Solutions Limited

Published by Tina Campbell on
The Safe operation of Industrial Automation and Control Systems (IACS).

Thursday 20th August 2020, Edinburgh, Scotland– The Energy from Waste (EfW) industry plays an important role in the ongoing development of the circular economy, as we transition from simply landfilling ‘waste’ materials to a more sustainable model for the reduction and reuse of materials in our daily lives.

There will always be materials that simply cannot be recycled, a residual fraction. The typical composition of municipal or commercial waste contains biodegradable material, which when landfilled, results in the production of greenhouse gases, including methane. The EfW industry utilises the energy content of this residual fraction to produce renewable heat and generate renewable power, therefore the EfW industry helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while providing a renewable source of energy.

Interview

  1. What is your role within Asset Guardian Solutions Limited?

I’m a Business Development Manager and I’ve been with Asset Guardian Solutions Limited (AGSL) for two very interesting and enjoyable years. One of my responsibilities is finding new customers and markets that can benefit from AGSL’s experience and expertise.

  1. What is your experience within the Energy from Waste Industry?

I’ve been involved in the EfW industry since 2005, in various senior business and project development roles, primarily looking at the development of projects, overcoming the compliance, regulatory, financial and logistical barriers to successful EfW projects around the world.

  1. What do you believe to be most significant challenges facing the Industry today?

There are several significant challenges within the industry, and I would highlight compliance with safety and environmental regulations. Then there is the challenge of minimising downtime to increase the availability and profitability of a plant.

Operators need to be able to continually demonstrate that they are always able to comply with strict emissions legislation, i.e. the EU Industrial Emissions Directive and National Regulators such as the Environment Agency and SEPA who have the powers to withdraw a Licence to Operate if a plant owner/operator cannot demonstrate full compliance.

The chemical composition of the waste-fuel means that these plants (which operate at high temperatures) are prone to severe corrosion/erosion issues, which can impact the life of critical components, reduce plant availability, and increase maintenance costs.

These are imperatives for plant owners and operators and these issues are already being addressed day-to-day, but it requires dedication and effort on the part of experienced personnel.

The EfW industry is one of the most regulated in Europe and I feel that there are some areas where the management of compliance issues can be improved significantly.

More relevant to the assistance that AGSL can provide, is the complexity of a plant’s safety and industrial control systems. Many systems have lots of redundancy built into them to ensure continuity of production.  These plants really need to be operated continuously between scheduled planned maintenance shutdowns. It is sensible to proactively manage these complex systems to ensure their safety, integrity and continuity of production.

With so much day-to-day focus on compliance issues and just striving to keep an EfW plant operational, there is often insufficient time or resources to consider how best to manage and ensure the security and integrity of the control systems.

  1. What feedback do you typically get from customers?

AGSL works closely with customers across the energy industries, from oil and gas exploration and production to the nuclear industry to power transmission and distribution. Often their adoption of the Asset Guardian software is driven by the need to comply with legislation, industry standards or best practice.

We receive feedback that Asset Guardian is intuitive and easy to use and that’s always good to know, but a major advantage we often hear is that our customers feel they now have a tool that gives them the ability to talk to suppliers and service providers from an advantageous position about inventory management, managing lifetime costs including the cost of these support services and spare parts. An Asset Guardian system has the potential to save them a lot of money throughout the lifetime of their plant.

  1. How can Asset Guardian help solve the challenges faced in the EfW Industry?

In common with all industries that are reliant on complex automation and industrial control systems, the EfW industry faces the challenge of ensuring the safety and integrity of these systems, while the threat level and frequency of cyber-attacks, on Operation Technology (OT) systems generally, is increasing.

Users of Asset Guardian benefit from the inventory and configuration data contained within their system in a number of ways, but primarily for the management of cyber security, compliance management, obsolescence management and configuration change management. Asset Guardian acts as a repository for data which can  facilitate the rapid recovery of an EfW plant in the event of a cyber-attack such as ransomware or other malware attacks targeting SCADA systems and PLCs.

  1. What do you see for the Energy from Waste Industry in the future?

The industry has a very bright future and I feel privileged to have been involved in its development. It’s great to see that so many plants are in operation and are contributing to the sustainability of the economy. 

It’s unfortunate, yet inevitable that the industry will have to adopt some best practices from other sectors of the wider energy industry in order to improve the safety and integrity of EfW plants. As connectivity and the centralisation of data management increases with the progression of Industry 4.0; it is inevitable that industrial control systems will become more vulnerable, and this situation needs to be addressed. .

  1. Do you have any advice for decision-makers in the EfW Industry who are responsible for managing the integrity of their Industrial and Automation assets?

When you are just beginning to address these issues, it can seem like a very daunting task. Where do we start?  Do we have the resources and skill-sets required to tackle these issues? What tasks should we prioritise? What will it cost?

My advice would be to follow the requirements and guidelines of the relevant industry standards but look further than just the soft benefits of ‘compliance with the standard’ for justification of your plans. When our customers start to monetise these benefits, it can be a real eye-opener. The cost savings can be very significant.

For more information, please contact sales@assetguardian.com

 

 

Written by Tina Campbell. Tina is the Marketing Manager for Asset Guardian Solutions Ltd. Tina is responsible for creating and executing the AG marketing strategy, and within that, developing and executing campaigns, creating and implementing content, managing website, traffic and social engagement and much more.