Remote Operating Stations

A project in Germany will be the first to make use of Demag’s Remote Operating Stations (ROS), which enable the remote control of crane systems, most of which will largely operate in automatic mode.

Managing Director of Demag, South Africa, Emil Berning says, “This is a Demag milestone, where our innovative ROS is to be utilised in a brand-new European power plant project. I see many applications in energy and industrial sectors in South Africa benefiting from our new Demag technology, making specialised crane activities easier to manage.

“The ROS system is a new addition to our previous offering of two variants for the control of process cranes, and is brand new technology that enables the operator to control the crane from any convenient working environment”.

Heat and power

Demag, Germany, will supply Green Steam Hürth GmbH, a subsidiary of E.ON, with three process cranes equipped with grabs for a heat and power plant project. The project comprises the build of a biomass power plant with an output of 20MW of electricity and 87MW of heat energy at the site of the UPM paper plant in Hürth near Cologne, Germany. 

The power plant, where E.ON is investing some EUR 110 million, is due to go online in mid-2022 and will provide heat for the Hürth paper factory while simultaneously feeding renewable energy into the grid. UPM produces more than 300 000 tonnes of high-quality newspaper made from recycled paper at the factory every year.

The paper production operation requires a lot of heat (in the form of steam) and the combined heat and power generation is particularly efficient. In this case, it is also particularly sustainable, since the power plant is fueled by wood residues, which E.ON procures in the region. According to E.ON, this will provide an efficient and reliable supply of virtually CO2-neutral energy to an industrial operation that requires a lot of energy.

Demag will deliver two process cranes for the automated continuous supply of wood to fire the boiler in the power plant. Some 45 tons of wood has to be fed around the clock every hour. The two double-girder cranes, which have a load capacity of 14 tonnes and a span of 20.6 metres, will travel on a crane runway measuring almost 100 metres in length. 

All of the crane travel drives feature variable speeds>Energy recovery when braking and lowering loads enhances the energy efficiency of the cranes. Hydraulic multi-jaw grabs with a capacity of 12m³ will be used as load handling attachments.

Cranes continuously feeding fuel

The crane systems will largely operate in automatic mode. The Demag Warehouse Management System (WMS) software will ensure, for example, that the bunkers are cleared, that the boiler is continuously fed with the required quantities of wood and that both cranes complete their coordinated tasks.

Not only the fuel, but also the ash as a residual material is handled by a Demag crane. Demag engineers have specified a smaller double-girder process crane with a 5.4-tonne load capacity and a hydraulic grab for this task. 

The three crane systems will operate under challenging conditions with high humidity (up to 100%) and high dust levels. They are ideally suited to meet these requirements, as Demag has already designed and delivered many cranes for refuse recycling installations and biomass power plants all over the world.

Multiple views of the operating location

Since it is very difficult to view the entire very long fuel bunker from a conventional crane cab, the project engineers at E.ON decided in favour of a special Demag option. If the cranes need to be operated under classic manual control, this can be done via a ROS, which also serves as a monitoring station when the cranes are running in automatic mode. 

ROS is a remote control station that includes all operating functions of a process crane but the crane operator does not view the crane and its operating environment direct. Rather he has comprehensive sight of the crane and its operations via a widescreen monitor that shows images from several cameras in real time. 

The screen layout can be configured to meet process requirements, with information relevant to the process being automatically displayed.

A ROS station like this can be located very far from the crane and at the Hürth biomass power plant, it is installed in the control centre, so the operator can benefit from improved working conditions.

The many installed cameras ensure he has an even better view of the process than from a crane cab. Not being restricted to his normal field of vision, he can in fact now ‘see around corners’.

Where to locate the ‘virtual’ cab

Emil comments that in simple terms, the ROS is a complete, location-independent operating station for cranes. The operator has access to all the control elements that are normally installed in a crane cab. 

“Just as in the cab, the control unit can be optimally adapted to meet the operator’s needs. With ROS, however, the owner can decide where the “virtual” cab is located, which makes for greater flexibility while still offering all the standard safety checks. 

“With the ROS system, all control elements are compactly and ergonomically integrated into a console panel, the height of which can be adjusted so that no matter where the crane is located, it can be operated from either a sitting or standing position. In addition to the usual joysticks with adjustable armrests, a touch panel or – or if the user chooses – a tablet can be used as a human-machine interface, via which the operator can call up additional information,” adds Emil. 

“This third ROS system makes cab training easier and also significantly reduces investment and operating costs because no cabs need to be installed on the cranes themselves, nor access to them,” he concludes.

Emil Berning, Managing Director