Eco-industrial parks: 5 steps to optimize sustainability
Eco-industrial parks (EIPs) are growing in number as businesses seek ways to boost sustainability and reduce environmental impact. In these cooperative ecosystems, businesses on a shared site work together on the principle of industrial symbiosis, exchanging and reusing resources such as materials, energy, water and by-products. Their goal is to create competitive advantage while reducing waste and pollution, protecting the environment and enriching local communities.
Each EIP is unique: some have been specially designed, while others have evolved over time. The Kalundborg ecopark in Denmark, for example, evolved gradually through the cooperation of neighboring industries. Here, the use of surplus heat from a coal-fired power plant to heat local homes cuts the amount of thermal pollution discharged to a nearby fjord. A local fish farm, which also benefits from the surplus heat, sells its sludge as a fertilizer. Steam from the power plant is sold to a pharmaceutical and enzyme manufacturer and a petroleum plant. A by-product of the power plant’s sulfur-dioxide scrubber meets almost all the gypsum needs of a wallboard manufacturer, while the plant’s fly ash and clinker are sold on for road building and cement production.
Meanwhile in the Netherlands, Chemelot is focusing on shared knowledge and sustainable processes and products to realize its vision of becoming the safest, most sustainable and competitive chemical site in western Europe by 2025.
Whatever their make-up, EIPs involve a complex network of interrelated value chains and processes. Some essential steps are needed to streamline coordination of those elements for optimal sustainability, innovation and growth.
EIPs involve multiple layers of synchronization. Individual units and entire value chains must be harmonized to complement each other in terms of resource sharing, storage and distribution networks, markets and customers.
It’s critical to have a clear picture of how the various value chains interlink. First there is the big picture: optimizing the organization of production, storage and transportation of each product. Within that, smaller value chains also need to work efficiently together. This demands detailed production planning for every plant and for all shared resources. By collecting all the data in one place it’s possible to identify the most efficient sequences for all the production and resources across the EIP.
When companies in an EIP work are working in silos, sustainability becomes impossible – so it’s essential that everyone who needs it has up-to-date visibility on which plant needs what resources, when, how much and for how long.
Real-time collaboration is the only way to efficiently manage these environmental and resource issues. For example, if one business is using another’s surplus heat to produce its goods, it needs to know when that resource is available so it can schedule and respond to any variability in supply.
In the EIP environment, a problem at one plant can easily affect others down the line, potentially bringing entire value chains to a standstill. Collecting and analyzing data in one place is the key to preventing that.
For instance, a single source of information on design and construction can provide a clear picture of facilities, equipment and processes, enabling simple and timely reviews, updates and maintenance. Predictive and prescriptive maintenance tools, supported by virtual 3D simulation or digital twins, provide a collaborative virtual space in which to work out and schedule solutions to potential issues before they become a problem, and without disrupting processes.
If an unexpected issue does occur, every unit in the EIP needs to be agile enough to adapt with minimal disruption. A single source of information enables the entire ecosystem to continuously readjust to events such as unexpected variabilities in the supply of materials and resources or a maintenance issue in an upstream plant. With robust planning and visibility, businesses can reoptimize what they’re doing to keep themselves and the value chain operating as efficiently as possible.
Every EIP involves a unique variety of different entities, data points, schedules and interests that must be unified to achieve a shared vision. Bringing everyone’s data together on a single system, with powerful data processing and 3D simulation capabilities, provides the collaborative capability to align their interests.
By simplifying the scheduling of resources, production and engineering it enables the robust planning, operation and communication the EIP needs both for profitable and sustainable business and a positive impact on the ecology and communities around it.
Read more about ecoparks in the COMPASS Magazine article “One company’s waste is another’s raw material”
To discover how the 3DEXPERIENCE platform can help to achieve these goals, visit https://ifwe.3ds.com/energy-materials