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Interview Ana Patricia Bautista

Let´s talk to Ana Patricia Bautista from IKERLAN. She is a project partner in the Bio-FlexGen consortium. An experienced IT-expert based in Spain, Ana is a real wizard: Her team has been creating the IT-structure for the Biomass-fired Top Cycle plant (BTC) for Bio-FlexGen.

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Ana, how do you manage this challenge?

My main focus is a three layer IT- architecture, with Edge and Cloud computing. This is an advanced distributed computing framework. It strategically positions company applications in close proximity to primary data sources.
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Sounds great! Your part in Bio-FlexGen is called “Digital optimisation of the processes of the BTC technology". So, what will you develop concretely until the end of our Bio-FlexGen project in February 2025?

We are designing a digital platform that represents the physical status of the BTC plant. It works like this: We have the three layers: First of all, the device layer. Where there will be sensors of the different elements of the Biomass-fired Top Cycle plant. For example, the pressure of a valve or the temperature of the gasifier. As a second layer, we have the Edge node where we gather that sensor data. The Edge node is a computer that acts as an end user portal for communication with other nodes in cluster computing. And then, as a third and last step, we will transfer the sensor data from the Edge node to the Cloud. Quite in general, we are planning to have an Edge node for every part of the plant.
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Three times the charm! But why do you have to send the data to the cloud at all?

In the cloud, we can make more powerful analysis and use external inputs. Let me explain:  In Bio-FlexGen, we have three use cases where we will apply parts of the Bio-FlexGen technology: 1. The Spanish cement-producing company CEMEX, 2. The Spanish natural sodium sulphate -producing company Sulquisa and the Swedish energy supplier Tekniska Verken. They all have different requirements and different existing IT infrastructures in their facilities. For example, CEMEX is particularly interested in the fuel-switching mode of the BTC-plant. The plant can run both on Biomass-based syngas and green hydrogen. Sulquisa and Tekniska Verken focus on the Biomass-based syngas fuel. But they have different fuels and external inputs for optimising their production. Sulquisa uses private inputs, while Tekniska Verken uses publicly available data. From our IT perspective, we need to analyse those parameters. That´s where the cloud comes into play because we can easily store, access, and analyse the data there.
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Ok. That means, that this IT architecture is adaptable and flexible for any kind of plant – a custom-made solution for end-users?

Yes, exactly. It can be applied to meet the needs of the end users. Also, it is supposed to be a “carefree-package” where the plant experts will be able to control the whole plant system. And in case there should be any problems, the IT-architecture has an innate alarm system. There will be a digital dashboard with visualisations of the plant components, indicating potential problems. Of course, you will need trained IT-experts to maintain this system. In addition, the Cloud also allows remote interactions with the system.  Or you can use a dashboard with the information of more than one plant from different locations.
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In general, there are tons of data that will be analysed in the cloud. Who will host it - talking about data protection?

This will depend on the use case partners, we do not want to impose anything to them. The design architecture supports different cloud providers. These can be the current big players, such as Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft’s Azure or Google’s GCP. We also offer other options. OVH is the largest hosting provider in Europe. So, the European Commission prefers this one – for obvious reasons. We also have an in-house option. Use case partners are sometimes reluctant to have their data stored externally. They are afraid of losing control over the data, even though this is already solved with the main cloud platforms.
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Ana, thank you so much for taking your time to explain this digital world for us. May the Cloud be with you!