Biomass boiler analytics and real time control based on Industry 5.0 concepts


Nowadays, many companies are or already have implemented Industry 4.0 concepts that are focused on digitalization. Usually, they have smart metering devices, digitalized technical documentation, and schemes of engineering systems. IT systems and personnel processes are integrated into a centralized unified system in real time. However, in order to achieve industry energy efficiency and COemissions reduction goals, it is important to move further and implement Industry 5.0 ideas.

Industry 5.0 exceeds its predecessor Industry 4.0, by not only providing with an opportunity to smoothly control processes with the help of digitalized solutions but also by implementing more advanced IT systems and big data analytics and performing tasks without human interaction. Many could argue with such approach and suppose that human is better at analyzing data and making decisions. Yet, most recent IT tools, with the help of artificial intelligence, are able to analyze huge amounts of data through a short period of time and propose solutions. This way, specific control tasks are created, and the system is controlled based on mathematical data analysis. The main benefit of such system is that engineering systems can be operated in the most efficient way.


Companys that operate biomass boilers often have a problem that biomass fuel calorific value is unknown during the combustion process. The real calorific value is determined only a few days after, when biomass is already combusted.

The problem is, the real biomass calorific value is unknown while operating the plant. In common practice, the boiler is controlled based on the typical calorific value. Boiler temperatures are controlled by regulating the amount of air.  Because data regarding biomass calorific value lags behind the moment of control, it prevents from making valid and data-based decisions. It is often unclear if the present control mode (amount of air) is optimal. Particularly, the surplus amount of air causes higher losses. It results in not only increased losses but in the shortened lifetime of the boiler and its reliability. It happens as a result of maintaining a higher temperature than needed in the given time.

It is also noticeable, that the efficiency of boiler control depends on the human factor. Each operator controls the boiler based on personal experience, and control results of various operators differ. For producing the same amount of heat, various amounts of biomass fuel are consumed based on the decision of an operator. The real calorific value of biomass fuel is determined only after a few days, and balance and consumption analysis are performed for the period of a month. It becomes difficult not only to collect data about the boiler and its operation modes but also to understand how to control system in the most efficient way and what parameters to change.

Industry 5.0 concepts allow eliminating human factor and control biomass boiler operation in the most efficient way based on real time data analysis. How does it apply in practice?

IT system continuously collects real SCADA metering data and performs calculations in Cloud. This way, real time mathematical modelling is performed based on metering data. Such mathematical model computes biomass energy KPIs: calorific value and moisture content, evaluates biomass fuel dosing process, economizer efficiency, thermal losses with input air and exhausted gasses. Based on these KPIs, operator receives control tasks for each operation hour. Tasks can be accessed at the Web interface of the system, received by e-mail, or directly stetted in the SCADA system. These control tasks allow controlling biomass fuel combustion process in the most optimal way. IT system is customized for a particular system and such real time metering data and normative indicators are presented at the Web interface Dashboard:

  • Boiler efficiency, %;
  • Economizer efficiency, %;
  • Plant efficiency, %;
  • Biomass consumption in MWh, biomass consumption in tons;
  • Energy production prime cost, Eur/MWh; Eur/tne;
  • Costs of electricity kWh/MWh thermal;
  • Energy prime cost tne/MWh thermal;
  • Energy for tn of biomass/MWh thermal;
  • Biomass energy KPIs: calorific value in MJ/kg and moisture content %;
  • Excess air ratio % change in time.

Skeptically may say that such models are difficult to validate and prove reliability.

The response to this statement is simple. Such system‘s operation quality and reliability can be proven by comparing the calorific value of biomass fuel with the laboratory data: if data matches, it shows that model is reliable. Eventually, the biomass boiler becomes a reliable practical measure for determining biomass fuel calorific value on the same day or hour. Usually in the practice analysis and balance of consumed fuel and produced heat are tracked and evaluated the period of a month. This period is too long to properly evaluate the quality of biomass fuel and efficiency of the boiler.


This raises a legitimate question: what savings can be expected by implementing biomass boiler operation control with IT systems?  Savings of the 3% – 7% from the consumed biomass fuel are expected. Usually, the payback time of such system is less than one year if the power of the biomass boiler is 5 MW or higher.

Maintenance planning is also an additional benefit of the analytical system. A decrease in boiler efficiency indicates forthcoming failures. The substitutability of technical personnel is not less important. IT system has collected „know-how“ that helps to avoid mistakes made by operators. It also allows to operate a plant for the operators that have less experience.

One of the most advance biomass boiler control IT platforms is created by the Lithuanian company Energy Advice. The company, based on the market needs, offers an innovative solution: biomass boiler operation analytical system EA-SAS Boiler.

More about the solution or contact

Prepared by
Energy Advice director PhD Vytautas Šiožinys

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