Ravi Gopinath Head – Manufacturing Practice, Tata Consultancy Services, Mumbai, India

ABSTRACT Tata Consultancy Services has deployed a state-of-the-art online plant-wide advanced controller at the 4500 tpd Rampura-Agucha ore beneficiation plant of Hindustan Zinc. The plant is completely automated with a centralized DCS. Beneficiation is a two step process - pulverization and flotation. Large and frequent variations in the ore characteristics adversely impact the final product. Manual control is not possible due to the large number of variables and constraints. The plant-wide advanced process controller consists of individual controllers for grinding and flotation circuits. Additionally there is an optimizing controller that writes target set points for the individual controllers. The grinding controller is a combination of model-based multivariable predictive control and expert systems. It also has a ‘softsensor’, which predicts key process variables in the absence of field sensors. The flotation controller is based on a combination of process knowledge and heuristic knowledge of expert operators. It has been developed using APC Toolkit, TCS’ proprietary tool for rapid development of Advanced Process Control applications. Benefits accruing to HZL include sustained improvement of 3.2% in zinc recovery, reduced variability in product quality, reduced energy consumption during grinding, increased uptime and smoother running of the plant, resulting in savings in maintenance and breakdown costs.



Tata Research Development and Design Center (TRDDC), a division of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), in collaboration with Regional Research Laboratory, Bhopal, and Hindustan Zinc Limited (HZL), has deployed a state-of-the-art online plant-wide advanced controller for HZL’s ore beneficiation plant at Rampura-Agucha, Rajasthan, India. The Department of Mines (DOM) and Department of Science and Technologies, both government of India agencies, jointly sponsored this project meant to be a technology demonstrator of plantwide advanced process control for the first time in the Indian mineral processing sector. 2. THE PLANT

Ore beneficiation at HZL’s Rampura-Agucha plant is a two step process. Ore is pulverized to finely ground particles in wet grinding mills in order to liberate the valuables, namely lead and zinc, from the associated gangue. The ground particles are then selectively floated in flotation cells for individual recovery of lead and zinc. The plant currently processes around 4500 tpd (225 tph) of lead-zinc ore with a grade ranging from 9 to 14% zinc and 1.2 to 2% lead. The plant consists of: § Three grinding and classification lines, each consisting of: ù One rod mill (open circuit) ù One ball mill (open circuit) ù A two stage classification circuit § Lead flotation circuit with: ù Conventional rougher and scavenger flotation cells ù Conventional cleaner flotation cells § Zinc flotation circuit with: ù Conventional rougher and scavenger flotation cells ù Conventional cleaner flotation cells
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The ore beneficiation plant is completely automated, with a significant amount of instrumentation and control hardware. All field instruments and controllers are monitored and controlled by a centralized Distributed Control System (DCS; Honeywell TDC3000 series). 3. THE PROBLEM

Large and frequent variations in the characteristics of the ore feed to the grinding units adversely impact the optimum grind size of the ground product. These variations in the ground product size (which forms the feed to the flotation circuit) are detrimental to both recovery and grade of lead and zinc. Considering the wide variations in feed quality and the number of variables, constraints and performance targets to be monitored and maintained simultaneously, optimal performance can never be ensured through manual control. An optimizing control system will make it possible to continuously achieve plant targets (throughput, grade and recovery) notwithstanding the variations in feed characteristics. 4. OBJECTIVE

The objective of the project is to design and implement supervisory plant-wide control systems for the ore beneficiation plant. This is expected to achieve 1% improvement in lead and zinc metal recoveries (individually). Additional benefits expected are: § Savings in reagent consumption § Savings in energy consumption during grinding § Lower variability in plant operation § Smoother running of the plant resulting, in savings in maintenance and breakdown costs 5. THE SOLUTION

The plant-wide controller is a state-of-the-art software package for optimization of operations at the plant level. The software is built using a combination of C++ and Honeywell PLANTSCAPE™ SCADA features (operator graphical user interface (GUI), drivers for communication with the DCS and application co-ordination) and runs on a Windows ® NT platform. The combined system, consisting of individual advanced process controllers for the grinding and flotation circuits, has advantages for the end user primarily in terms of optimized use of resources and automatic tracking of disturbances with immediate corrective action, which help in improving overall plant performance. 5.1. Grinding Mill Advanced Process Controller The Grinding Advanced Process Controller (GAPC) is a state-of-the-art optimizing controller specifically developed for grinding circuits in mineral processing plants. The GAPC has two major components as follows. 5.1.1. Circuit Supervisory Controller The supervisory control application is a combination of a model-based multivariable predictive control (MPC) algorithm and an expert system for process condition inference. The core technology components are embedded into an application in the PLANTSCAPE™ SCADA environment. It computes the optimal values for the manipulated variables (MVs) at each sample time and downloads them to the DCS. The MPC algorithm uses models embodying dynamic relationships among all MVs and controlled variables (CVs). The models are built using plant data collected during plant campaigns. The MPC algorithm performs explicit optimization to arrive at a set of MVs within the operator-specified bounds, minimizing the error between the setpoint specified by the operator and the actual values of the CVs for achieving the desired plant performance. The above algorithm makes good use of ‘softsensors’ wherever physical sensors are not available. 5.1.2. Circuit Softsensor The Circuit Softsensor consists of a phenomenological dynamic model for wet grinding circuits. This model, which has been custom-built and configured for the Rampura-Agucha grinding circuits, works in tandem with the grinding supervisory controller as a real time simulation task in the PLANTSCAPE™ SCADA environment. The softsensor takes live data from the plant (via DCS / PLANTSCAPE™ SCADA) and predicts all the key process variables, including size distribution of solids. Thus, this model acts as a softsensor in the absence of field (hard) sensors to provide information on key plant process variables that are not directly measurable. Simulation outputs are presented as report files (steady state simulation), on–screen size distribution data, and real time trends (dynamic simulation).
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5.2. Flotation Circuit Advanced Process Controller Flotation control is achieved by a combination of process knowledge and heuristic knowledge of expert operators. The heuristic level of flotation control utilizes the knowledge of approximate relationships between the process inputs (reagent dosages, pulp level, aeration rate) and concentrate grades and recoveries. These relationships are evaluated through data collected from extensive plant campaigns using a statistical technique called design of experiments. Once these relationships have been established, a set of knowledge-based operational rules is coded in the fuzzy rule base. This rule base also contains fuzzy rules derived from the semiempirical model of the process. A fuzzy inferencing mechanism operates on these rules to infer proper action to be taken in order to maintain acceptable grade and recovery levels. The flotation control application is developed using APC Toolkit, an indigenous product developed by TCS for rapid development of Advanced Process Control based applications. Though the application runs outside the PLANTSCAPE™ SCADA, it continuously exchanges data with the SCADA system and executes on the same level as the grinding controller. 5.3. Overall Optimizer In the hierarchical structure of the controllers, at the topmost level is an optimizing controller overseeing and coordinating the aforesaid controllers at the next level of hierarchy. The overall optimizer will be responsible for minimizing a cost function based on economics and logistics of the process to arrive at targets to be provided as set points for the individual advanced controllers at the lower level. 6. SYSTEM ARCHITECTURE

A view of the system architecture is shown in figure 6.1 below. The controller application runs on top of a PLANTSCAPE™ SCADA/ Windows ® NT environment. Data exchange with the DCS (thus eventually with the plant) is done through interfaces provided by the PLANTSCAPE™ SCADA protocols.

PlantScape™ SCADA

Supervisory Controller

User Interface


PlantScape™ Database

Setpoints Process Data

Plant Instrumentation

Process § Grinding § Flotation

Figure 6.1

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The grinding circuit advanced process controller has been commissioned for all three grinding circuits at the plant site and has been running successfully since November 2000. The deployment of the grinding controller up-front helped to quantify the impact of optimized control in the upstream grinding circuit on the downstream flotation circuit, and thus led to better understanding of the control requirements in the flotation circuit. The flotation advanced process controller has been commissioned and its performance is currently being monitored to estimate benefits. 7.1. Salient Features of the Grinding Advanced Process Controller (GAPC) Performance 7.1.1. Increased Throughput Initial results indicate a sustained increase in current throughput levels, besides consistently meeting grinding circuit quality requirements vis-a-vis product size distribution and percent-solids ratio. This itself will have a strong positive influence in appreciably increasing the overall productivity of the plant, including individual recoveries of lead and zinc. Figure 7.1 below shows that the GAPC can handle a throughput of 74 tph (upper graph) by keeping all other key process variables steady (lower graph), as against the standard practice of much lower throughput.

Figure 7.1

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7.1.2. Smoother Process Operation The operating regime can be smoothly transferred from one operating point to the other without affecting key process variables. Figure 7.2 shows how the process under control of GAPC behaves against a step change in fresh feed (upper graph). The controller smoothly executes the change by keeping all other key process variables steady, such as throughput, percent solids, and size fractions at grinding discharge (lower graph).

Figure 7.2 7.1.3. Improvement in Overall Metal Recovery One of the key performance criteria in determining the benefits of the supervisory controller is its impact on the final product. As can be seen from figure 7.3, there has been a remarkable improvement in zinc recovery during 2001 calendar year as compared to 2000. The average recovery has gone up from 87.32% to 90.11%, which is the highest level seen by the plant. During this whole period, the supervisory control system was online with an average uptime of about 93%. It is important to note that this increase in recovery has been achieved without affecting the product grade, which was at 54.28% in 2000 as compared to 54.49% in 2001 (figure 7.4).
Zinc Recovery (Years 2000 - 2001) 100.0 95.0 Recovery % (Daily Averages) 90.0 85.0 80.0 75.0 70.0 65.0 60.0 55.0 50.0 1 30 59 88 117 146 175 Days 204 233 262 291 320 349 Manual Control Supervisory Control Specification (88%)

Figure 7.3
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Zinc Grade (Years 2000 and 2001) 60.00

Grade % (Daily Averages)




Manual Control 40.00 1 30 59 88 117

Supervisory Control 146 175 Days 204

Target (54%) 233 262 291 320 349

Figure 7.4 7.1.4. Reduction in Recirculation Load The GAPC successfully reduced the recirculation load, which is an indirect measure of energy consumption in the grinding circuit. Figure 7.5 shows the trend of reduction in energy consumption for one (out of three) such grinding circuits.

450 400 350 300 250 200 Jul-00 Aug-00 Sep-00

GAPC Installed, Nov-00

% Recirculation








Figure 7.5

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7.1.5. Steady Sump Levels Variations in one of the key process variables can be observed by looking at the behavior of sump levels with GAPC ON and OFF. Figures 7.6 and 7.7 show how sump levels are completely steady with GAPC online.

Ore Feed

Sump1 Level

Sump2 Level

Sump Levels With Controller OFF


% Levels



20 8:24







11-Jan-01, Time (Actual)

Figure 7.6

Ore Feed

Sump1 Level

Sump2 Level

Sump Levels With Controller ON


% Levels



20 8:00 9:12 10:24 11:36 12:48 14:00 15:12 16:24

17-Feb-01, Time (Actual)
Figure 7.7

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7.1.6. Control of Product Size Fractions GAPC keeps all size fractions within specified control limits and supplies a uniform product size distribution for the downstream flotation process. Figure 7.8 below shows that percent retained over the 53µ size is within control limits specified by the plant (data collected from plant with controller online over almost one year).

63 58 53



Percent Retained Over 53µ Size

% Retained

48 43 38 33 28 23 18 1 9 17 25 33 41 49 57 65 73 81 89 97

Sample Number
Figure 7.8

7.1.7. Improved Recovery in Flotation Stage The uniformity achieved in the grinding circuit product helped the flotation operation downstream to show a noticeable upward trend in zinc recovery (figure 7.9) while keeping the zinc grade stable (figure 7.10).

100 96

GAPC Installed, Nov-00

% Recovery

92 88 84 80 Aug-00 Aug-01
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Figure 7.9



60 58

GAPC Installed, Nov-00

% Grade

56 54 52 50 Apr-00 Aug-00 Mar-00 Mar-01 Apr-01 Oct-00 Jul-00 May-00 May-01 Feb-00 Jun-00 Jan-01 Feb-01 Sep-00 Nov-00 Dec-00 Jun-01 Jul-01
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Figure 7.10

7.1.8. Other Benefits Other than the salient points stated above, there are many qualitative benefits, some of which are: § Almost total elimination of alarms due to sumps overflowing or running dry. Earlier, without the controller, these alarms were very frequent and contributed heavily to the decibel levels in the control room. § Ability to perform at conditions where manual control is very difficult, e.g., maintaining low percent solids with high throughput or high percent solids with low throughput.

7.2. Salient Features of the Flotation Advanced Process Controller (FAPC) Performance Currently, performance of the Flotation Advanced Process Controller (FAPC) is being monitored and data is being collected to estimate the quantitative benefits. Preliminary results show smoother operations, significant reduction in product variability, and improvements in recovery levels of both zinc and lead.

8. CONCLUSION Deployment of the plant-wide advanced controller has resulted in realization of several qualitative and quantitative benefits, both in the grinding circuit and in the flotation circuit. This has demonstrated the necessity and viability of plant-wide advanced process control in the Indian mineral processing sector.