Mälarenergi will pave the way for sustainable AI in industrial processes


Project OPERA is an initiative from Mälarenergi and RISE where together they have utilized collected data and knowledge to create reliable prediction models with the help of AI, and put them into sharp operation in the control rooms.

In industry, there is a need to develop predictions in real time to make decisions about controlling, optimizing and streamlining processes. Process data is often available to a large extent, but developing real-time predictions is a challenge. Partly due to delays but also the complexity found among components and machines in the industry.

Automating and streamlining its energy production and district heating system has long been central to Mälarenergi’s business strategies. A goal image that has become the basis for many projects and initiatives within the organization.

– We have a goal of reaching as high a degree of automation as possible. Of course, many parts are already very automated, but not all. It is seen in both the short and long term, everything that can be automated should do so. We want to get to a situation where we have automated systems. Digitization is a tool to get there, says Joacim Sundqvist, energy strategist at Mälarenergi.

The new project OPERA stems directly from a previous project that was also carried out by Mälarenergi and RISE. A project called Smart Flows, which aimed to learn to predict future consumption, and time lag, among customers in the district heating network with the help of machine learning.

– We have a common perception that the district heating industry will change a lot in the future and we at Mälarenergi have ambitions to be at the forefront. In the Smart Flows project, we have spent enormous time collecting measurement data. To analyze everything, we appointed an internal analysis group, which turned out to be very valuable, says Henrik Wickström, Business Developer at Mälarenergi.

– Project Smart Flows was basically a large mapping work where we found out what information is available and where to get it. The analysis group was a team we put together of different roles that helped to look at it together. To really understand the data, skills from different areas are needed, says Kristian Sandström, senior researcher at RISE.

All data collected and analyzed in Smart Flows laid the foundation for the framework developed within the OPERA project. A framework that in turn lays the foundation for reliable prediction models that can be interpreted by operators in a simple way and that adapt to external changes.

– We created predictions and forecasts with the help of AI in Smart Flows, now we try to apply this in control rooms and put it into sharp operation. We will implement it in the business for real. Which of course means completely new challenges than the ones we had in Smart Flows. Now it’s a lot about how we make this work over time and how we get acceptance in an operational environment, says Joacim Sundqvist.

AI is undoubtedly a hot topic right now, but that does not always mean that all AI initiatives are welcome. Joacim, Kristian and Henrik have all experienced resistance and suspicion about the subject.

– Many people talk about AI as if it were a magic wand, hocus pocus approximately. You must instead relate to what the new toolbox is and explore how it can be really helpful. The framework we create in the OPERA project will be able to be used in control rooms and back offices, which will also accelerate development, says Kristian Sandström.

Project OPERA will make it possible for operators to predict district heating needs of consumers, but it will also give the implementation of AI in the industry a boost in the right direction.

– It is with these types of implementations that we learn, that the AI ​​can be tested and we get a chance to develop it to adapt to current changes, says Henrik Wickström.

The interest in a smarter industry is something Mälarenergi and RISE have in common with many others. ProcessTeknik is the meeting place for the process industry of the future. Together with Scanautomatic and Nordic Food Industry ProcessTeknik is a cross-industry meeting place with three trade fairs under one roof. With the goal of creating increased competence around common challenges, we focus on three areas – sustainability, smart industry and energy. ProcessTeknik will be arranged 4-6 October 2021 at the Swedish Fair in Gothenburg.

Swedish fair

The Swedish Exhibition Center Gothia Towers is one of Europe’s largest integrated meeting places with a unique city location in central Gothenburg. Swedish Exhibition Gothia Towers arranges and runs fairs, meetings, hotels, restaurants, spas and a show arena. Every year, just over two million visitors are welcomed to the meeting place. Svenska Mässan Gothia Towers is owned by a private, independent foundation, Svenska Mässan Stiftelse. The foundation’s mission is to promote business and industry, and every year just over SEK 3.2 billion is generated in tourist economic effects.

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