Celulose Riograndense has invested more than EUR 1 billion in its Brazilian project, the largest by a private company in Rio Grande do Sul state: a pulp plant expansion that began in October 2013 and was finalized in May 2015.
Large investments bring impressive benefits to local economy
More than 600 local suppliers provided goods and services for the project that generated approximately 9,000 jobs. The impact to the local economy was impressive: more than half a billion euros in purchases, mainly from local companies in Rio Grande do Sul state.
Another benefit was the investment in manpower skills through a professional training program for about 10,000 people. The new plant generates 4,100 direct jobs and another 21,000 indirect jobs, most of them in the southern region of the state. The project is also sustainable with 81,000 hectares of own plantation forest.
The total scope of Neles’ contract included the supply, installation and commissioning of 1,740 valves and a management system for 600 control loops. Ninety percent (90%) of the valves were mounted in Brazil, a synchronization process between Brazilian and international experts. For Celulose Riograndense, the partnership was based on alignment – a keyword that can explain the success of the plant expansion process.
Key to successful project implementation
Walter Lidio Nunes, CEO of Celulose Riograndense, highlights the uniqueness of the contract: a work of high complexity in the metropolitan area of Porto Alegre, the main city in southern Brazil.
“The project was implemented on a strict schedule, thanks to the dedication and alignment of all the teams,” he said. “We have achieved indicators above the Brazilian average, including no strike. Depending on the parameter, the project overall rates were three times higher than similar projects in countries like the United States,“ adds Nunes.
Walter Nunes, CEO, Celulose Riograndense: “The two companies have worked together on several projects, so the relationship between Celulose Riograndense and Neles is mature and solidified. Neles is a highly qualified supplier from more than just a technical point of view. We have the utmost regard for the company. We expect our partnership with Neles to continue through technology and idea inputs.”
Among the key points listed by the CEO is the project coordination team: 80-90% of the team members are professionals who had already worked together on other projects. Among them, Luiz Renato Chagas Figueiredo, Celulose Riograndense Power and Control Manager. Like Nunes, Figueiredo has long experience in the pulp and paper sector, including similar plant startup projects for Celulose Riograndense.
Another factor mentioned by Nunes is the alignment between the leadership team and partners. The daily effective communication was reinforced through strategic meetings of alignment between the board of the company and the leading managers of the expansion and with key suppliers. “The meetings were very objective; we have been using this concept – as a team – since 1995,” adds Celulose Riograndense’s CEO.
The importance of control valves in the new plant
The alignment also enabled the successful deployment of the 1,740 valves and the activation of the 600 control loops. “The pulp production process is increasingly an automated transport of fluids and requires several devices, including valves,” explains Figueiredo. “The valves regulate the fluid flow, working as a final control element,” he adds.
In the case of new plant technology, Neles employs automatic control valves with positioners, combined with limit switches and a control loop monitoring system, Neles Expertune PlantTriage. The intelligence embedded in the valves allows them to store field information: the data are collected and interpreted by PlantTriage, enabling the performance evaluation of all devices. It’s like industrial Big Data in real time. The plant digitalization increases the reliability of the plant.
“The previous generation of plants forced us to spend more time fixing problems than detecting and preventing them,” argues Figueiredo about the digitalization. According to him, control systems are so sophisticated that they incorporate alarm mechanisms not only to diagnose valve performance but also to indicate indirect process disturbances.
“All valves are important, but they have a critical hierarchy. To avoid failure in the most critical elements, we can focus on the Pareto Principle, selecting and concentrating on the most important devices among the 1,740 valves installed by Neles,” says Figueiredo. The rule is valid for all plant equipment. The same assessment must apply also to the control loops performance. According to Figueiredo, the currently 600 control loops was set at critical function and can be expanded in the future.
The data sources are not restricted to the valves’ details. Valves themselves are monitored by positioners and limit switches, devices that continuously evaluate the valves’ status and interface with the factory safety system. Neles limit switches have excellent compatibility; the same device can be used for different types of valves and at any voltage.
“Automation allows remote diagnosis of the automatic control valves performance, allowing Neles technicians to remotely check valve performance, identify problems like friction and stiction,” explains Figueiredo. “This integration gives us the chance to interact, maintain, and repair the monitored equipment, if it’s necessary.”
Commitment throughout the project
The Brazilian project mobilized experts from Finland, India, China and, in the case of limit switches, the United States. Although many of the valves were imported from Neles’ European headquarters, the U.S. and Chinese operations also worked as suppliers.
To coordinate the multinational team, Neles has created a bridgehead in Guaiba city, shifting Brazilian technicians from several offices. Although international, the Celulose Riograndense project was coordinated by the Brazilian Neles team.
The same commitment was observed in the final commissioning phases. Four highly skilled professionals in automation were already active in the factory three months before factory start-up, training the operators of Celulose Riograndense. The interaction also involved the maintenance area.
For Maximilian Furley, local contact from Neles, Celulose Riograndense’s new plant was the largest one related to the pulp and paper sector in Brazil in recent years. He also stressed that the project involved a joint operation by Neles’ Brazilian and global team.
This article has been up-dated in July 2020, due to company name change into Neles.