More waste utilised than ever before
We broke more production records in 2021 than ever before. The amount of waste utilised was an all-time high as we exceeded 200,000 tonnes for the first time. This volume corresponds to approximately 135,000 medium-sized cars. We also broke records in total energy production and total district heat production. We produced 56 per cent of the district heat of Vaasan Sähkö during the year.
2021 was an excellent year in terms of availability with the best result in the plant’s history.
The excellent result is partly due to the postponed maintenance, which allowed us to continue uninterrupted production for one and a half years. Furthermore, the number of disturbances in the operation of the plant was very low. The leak in a boiler tube at the end of July required maintenance actions over a period of a few days, but we were able to fix it rather quickly. The total duration of all disturbances in 2021 was slightly over four days, or 101.5 hours. This corresponds to only 1.2 per cent of the annual operating hours, which is an excellent result, considering that increasing availability to 100 per cent is challenging in a plant with just one production line.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused uncertainty in operation in 2021, but we had already learnt a lot about operating under exceptional circumstances in 2020. We were able to prepare for the situation, and postponing the service stop to 2022 was also a good decision, considering the status of the pandemic. Finding spare parts and the necessary maintenance staff might have been difficult in the worst phases of the pandemic.
Building the road and storage area was the most important project in 2021.
The new road makes it possible to route traffic directly to the plant via Lintuvuorentie road. The new intermediate storage area will be used for storing waste during service stops and any disturbances in particular. A new weighing station will also be constructed that will allow us to weigh long combined vehicles, as well. This project will also enable us to store waste in an orderly and modern manner that takes the environment into account. Excavation work in the project started in spring 2021. This is an extensive project, and we were happy to get Sundström, an excellent cooperation partner, approved as our excavation contractor. The project will be mostly completed at the beginning of 2022.
The road and storage project has progressed as planned, in terms of both the schedule and the goals. The last phase comprises asphalt paving and landscaping in 2022. The circular economy mindset is strongly present in the project, and we seek to utilise materials found in the area in the landscaping phase as much as possible. We used crushed stone in the construction of the new storage area, covering approximately four hectares. In addition, we saved the topsoil and utilised it in the construction of the edges of the storage area. We even screened some of the topsoil and then used it in lawns. Some 15,000 tonnes of recycled crushed concrete from Stormossen is utilised in the structural layers.
I started as a summer employee at Westenergy in 2019 and now work as a part-time employee in production. I first heard about Westenergy from a friend who was applying for a summer job there. At the time, I was a first-year environmental and energy engineering student at Vaasa University of Applied Sciences, and I decided to apply for a summer job at Westenergy, as well. I’m now about to complete my studies and am currently writing my thesis. Since summer 2019, I have been working at Westenergy during my studies.
Thanks to the very flexible arrangements, it has been very easy to combine studies with working here.
My duties mainly consist of field work in production. I monitor the plant’s production process and take care of simple operational duties. Working in production naturally also involves regular activities, some of which are daily, whereas others are weekly or monthly. Starting and monitoring the boiler scrubber is an example of a daily production task. I have worked with similar tasks since my summer job, but I am, on the other hand, continuously learning more about the energy recovery process and how to control it. My tasks have become more varied as I have learnt more. In addition, I have been able to utilise skills obtained in my studies. Courses related to plant technology, environmental legislation and environmental permits have been particularly useful for my job.
I have noticed that the circular economy mindset is reflected in all Westenergy operations.
New projects related to the circular economy are constantly in progress, and the company seeks to develop continuously in this field. You can see the operation of the circular economy concretely when metal is separated at the end of the production process and sent to recycling.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given me more work. I am a back-up person if someone in production falls ill or is placed in quarantine, for example. Sometimes they need to find a replacement even for the same day. On the other hand, I may be assigned a shift several weeks from now. My work does not include remote work, as production work requires being present at the plant. The COVID-19 pandemic has, however, also had an impact on my work environment. I don’t meet colleagues as I did before the pandemic. There are fewer social contacts, and we have had to avoid such contacts. People working in administration have switched to remote work in particular, and as a result, I have not met them as I used to. Before COVID-19, we always had a morning meeting at the plant, but remote connections are now used instead.
I only have good things to say about working at Westenergy. I received thorough induction training and learnt the work in practice by following the lead of other employees. There are also good practices applicable to temporary work. Since I work as a replacement for permanent employees as necessary, I work as a member of teams on different shifts. In my opinion, the interesting working environment and the excellent work community are what is best in my work. We work long 12-hour shifts with the same colleagues, which emphasises the importance of cooperation.
Working at Westenergy has taught me problem-solving and cooperation in particular. Problems are usually solved as a team.
Maintenance creates the preconditions for high availability
Reliability and availability were excellent in 2021. The goals for the past year were improving availability, developing cost-efficiency, and arranging competitive bidding for scaffolding work.
From the perspective of maintenance, we were able to achieve an efficiency of 99.5 per cent in terms of availability,
meaning that the total duration of disturbances was only two days during the year. Compared to many previous years, the biggest difference was the decision to postpone the annual maintenance to 2022. Despite that, we performed lots of required work and repairs as planned.
The plant’s age must be taken into account in maintenance, as it creates new needs and requirements. Long-term planning and the lifecycle mindset have risen to play an important role in maintenance planning. In particular, developing availability and operation is essential for the plant’s operations. The aging of the plant is also reflected in that each year, devices or parts of equipment are replaced more often than repaired.
IT operations ensure data security in the plant’s operations
Nowadays, data security and cyber security are important factors in all technical implementations in which information is transferred electronically. Artificial intelligence and new technical innovation and equipment will have a significant impact on our operations in the future. We are prepared to reinvent ourselves and renew our operational processes to keep our operations efficient and safe in what follows, as well.
We feel that data security comes first in every project.
We therefore decided to make IT a separate process in our operations in 2021. IT Manager Niklas Serén started as the project supervisor in 2021. He is in charge of the management of complex processes and takes care of the security of the plant’s operations from the IT perspective.
The Internet never sleeps – we must be continuously prepared for the unexpected.
The process requires being awake at all times and responding quickly to detect and repair any system vulnerabilities. IT is all about continuous problem solving.
Remote work has further emphasised the importance of data security and cyber security. We wanted to pay special attention to the maintenance of remote work tools and connections so that our employees can focus on their work. Tools, data security, servers, data communications, procurement of equipment and access management play a central role in our operations. The COVID-19 pandemic extended the delivery times of some equipment, but thanks to long-term planning, this caused no issues.
We want to ensure that our employees are able to observe data security in their work.
We decided to organise safety briefings about updates and ensure that our employees are up to date with respect to data security. We also implemented a cyber security survey in cooperation with third parties in 2021. The survey comprised interviews with the representatives of different departments about the current state of cyber security and a mapping of possible security risks. The survey was used as the basis of a plan that allows us to ensure a high level of cyber security in the future, as well
I started at Westenergy in May 2016 when I did my M.Sc. thesis for them. I graduated from Åbo Akademi that same year, getting my M.Sc. in Engineering, and was hired by Westenergy soon after graduation. This June will mark my five-year anniversary with the company. My duties at Westenergy include everything related to the IT operations.
I take care of the administration of usernames and several software solutions, as well as the acquisition of many kinds of devices and licences. My work largely consists of resolving problems.
In addition, cooperation with third parties is emphasised in my work.
Every day is different. My calendar may change completely when a critical solution needs to be fixed as soon as possible. A completely functional solution may stop working after a software or component upgrade, for example, due to incompatibility issues. Westenergy’s plant is a complex package controlled by information technology. Combining the various IT software solutions, the office network and the cloud services seamlessly and in a data secure manner brings its own challenges. Prioritisation may be difficult sometimes, as several issues may arise at the same time, which all need to be resolved as quickly as possible.
The IT sector is renewing rapidly. It is, therefore, really important to stay up to date in the different protection methods. We are currently investing in cyber security processes in particular. My work also requires ongoing anticipation. Several software solutions and licences of different parties are needed for the plant’s operation. Anticipation aims to ensure that software solutions or any licences do not stop working unexpectedly. IT processes are very important nowadays, even though this has been obvious to Westenergy throughout the operation of the plant.
Quality inspections give information on the composition of the raw material
The raw material utilised in our plant is source-separated community waste that consists of different types of materials. We use spot checks to monitor the composition of the raw material. Inspecting the quality of waste is also a requirement in our environmental permit. To ensure a steady production process, the quality of waste is evened out by crushing waste consisting of large pieces and by mixing the materials carefully. Monitoring the quality of waste is also important because some waste is still not suitable for utilisation as energy. Construction waste, for example, cannot be utilised in Waste-to-Energy plants.
In 2021, we inspected 82 loads of waste.
In addition to load inspections, we have deepened our cooperation with our owner companies. We visited different parts of the delivery chains, for example, to get a more comprehensive picture of the quality of waste. These visits have allowed us to become familiar with the waste processing facility processes and have enabled us to focus on bigger waste streams in our inspections than before. We developed our waste quality inspection operations in many ways in 2021. In particular, the transfer of operations to the new storage area in 2022 required a lot of planning.