Chemical manufacturer boosts production through ‘game-changing’ automation solution


A chemical manufacturer has increased production, flexibility and control through a ‘game-changing’ automation solution.

GEO Specialty Chemicals (GEO), based in Hythe, Hampshire, is an industry leader in the development and manufacture of high purity chemicals. It produces over 300 products for more than 1,000 customers in the coatings, adhesives, medical, water treatment and construction markets.

After investing in a new production facility in 2018 to enhance and extend its existing capabilities for high purity specialty monomers, GEO found it needed to increase production capacity to meet growing demand, and develop and optimise recipes in-house rather than bring in third parties at a vast expense.

As a top tier COMAH site handling inventories of high hazard chemicals, GEO also needed to ensure the highest level of safety controls, alarms and interlocks.

Working with Siemens Digital Industries it created a new production plant inside its existing building, deploying a complete solution based on integrated hardware and software, reconfiguring the plant and embedding the blending process into the new design.

The solution includes a total Siemens automation package utilising the SIMATIC PCS 7 distributed control system, SINAMICS variable speed drives, SIMOCODE motor starters and SIRIUS Low Voltage, SCALANCE network devices, and a complete range of Process Instrumentation, flow (Electromagnetic, Variable Area, Differential and Coriolis), level, pressure, and temperature.

SIMATIC PCS 7 was selected as the automation platform by GEO because it fit perfectly to the requirements of being scalable in its deployment, flexible in operation and provides the ability to be able to optimise recipes and develop new recipes in a controlled and standardised manner.

SIMATIC PCS 7’s ability to provide flexible configuration of recipes has been a game-changer for GEO.

Tony Short, GEO IE&C Engineer said: “With the new solution every stage of the process was in-built and done as a baseline. Managing the recipe of the chemical mix and other functionalities became easier.

“The PCS 7 has empowered engineers and technicians to optimise recipes on their own, rather than having to call in third parties. This has resulted in considerable cost saving, freeing up money to invest in improving systems and processes even more.”

Full visualisation of the production process has also been a major benefit.

“With the SIMATIC PCS 7, we get full visualisation of the whole system, which means things like tuning valves was a straightforward task,” Tony added. “This reduced commissioning time and made us operationally efficient sooner. It has meant qualification batches were much quicker and easier to produce.”

The solution included Sitrain PCS 7 training course for GEO’s managers and bespoke training for 15 operators and maintenance control technicians.

Meanwhile, the partnership also includes a three-year service contract and remote connection to the plant.

“A key benefit of this project has been Siemens’ support,” Tony explained. “I don’t think we would be as far as we are without that continued support of a dedicated team of hardware and software engineers.”

“Given Covid and the challenges of the pandemic this remote connection has been invaluable and helped ensure the plant has continued to run seamlessly.”

Steve Leech, Business Manager, Process Control Systems UK & Ireland, Siemens Digital Industries, said: “This is a great example of how control systems and instrumentation give access to the much-needed data that allows us to make an informed decision. The clarity it provides on material usage or how you can substitute something that has been used historically to maximise efficiency and sustainability is proof to the success of digitalisation.”