European project to increase the flexibility of industrial processes

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The Centre for Technological Innovation in Static Converters and Drives (CITCEA) of the UPC is participating in FLEX4FACT, a European project cofunded by the Horizon Europe programme. The aim of the initiative is to increase the flexibility of energy demand of industrial processes to accelerate the energy transition to a more sustainable model, and to decrease the cost of energy by integrating it into production planning.

The European project FLEX4FACT, in which CITCEA of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC) is participating under the direction of Professor Eduard Bullich- Massagué, has a budget of 21 million euros, 18 million of which are cofunded by the Horizon Europe programme. CITCEA-UPC, the scientific coordinator of the project, is one of the 23 participating members, including groups from Spain, Norway, Germany, Italy and Ireland, coordinated by Sintef Manufacturing AS.

Towards a greener and more sustainable industrial model

In the last year, the price of energy has increased dramatically. Consequently, the industrial production costs and the price of the final sale to consumers have also risen. Although the cost of energy is traditionally calculated as an indirect cost, the increase in energy prices means that it should be integrated into production planning to decrease costs.

Another need in the industrial sector is to accelerate the energy transition to a new, greener, more sustainable model. To achieve this, it is crucial to promote flexibility of demand in the electricity sector. The variability in renewables can produce, among other problems, imbalances between demand and generation that must be compensated for. Demand flexibility can provide services for the electricity network to compensate for these imbalances. This concept is called Demand Response.

The FLEX4FACT initiative is focused on developing the technology required to respond to these challenges. The aim is to increase the flexibility of industrial processes through digitalisation, automation and smart control. This flexibilisation is designed to incorporate the energy vector into production planning, to improve the integration of renewable energies and to promote the participation of industry in Demand Response services for the electricity networks.

Specifically, FLEX4FACT will develop solutions based on tools to increase the penetration of renewables in the industrial sector, for example, digital twins for production processes in five different industrials; a module to integrate the energy vector in production planning and control; and an aggregation platform to help the industrial sector to participate in demand flexibility markets.

The project solutions include edge computing technologies (leading computing technologies) and artificial intelligence to optimise the use of energy in the industrial sector, and blockchain technology to integrate demand response services into electricity markets. Solutions are designed in a modular way to facilitate their application in other European industries.

The contribution of CITCEA-UPC

The UPC research centre, with a budget of 1.4 million euros, will be responsible for developing a series of algorithms. First, optimisation algorithms to include the energy vector in production planning in an optimal way. These will be adapted to five use cases: two in Spain, one in Norway, one in Italy and another in Germany. It will also develop algorithms to give industry the capacity to offer demand flexibility, algorithms for aggregating demand flexibility for industrial energy communities and algorithms to participate in demand flexibility markets in an aggregated way and to implement flexibility for the industrial energy community in an optimal way.

Therefore, CITCEA-UPC will be in charge of integrating algorithms in the five use cases. For the development of algorithms, the centre has the collaboration of the research group Design and Optimization of Processes and Services (DOPS) of the UPC.

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