The increasing global demand for chicken meat means that commercial hatcheries must now handle hens’ eggs by the million. Hatching the eggs successfully is a complex process however, the air entering the hatchery must initially be warmed, but later in their development the eggs produce heat themselves and need to be cooled.
Working in conjunction with Omron, Chick Master, one of the world’s largest incubation suppliers for hatcheries, has developed a unique heat management system that takes advantage of this need for heating and cooling to deliver dramatic energy savings. This innovative and environmentally friendly system makes extensive use of automation products from Omron Electronics.
Air temperature is critical for hatching
Air enters the hatchery at an outside ambient temperature that could be at or even below freezing. Before this air passes to the incubator areas it must be heated to around 26°C, a process that consumes a significant amount of energy. Simply re-circulating warm air from the hotter areas of the hatchery to the cooler areas is not however practical, for reasons of hygiene.
With this in mind, Chick Master decided to investigate the possibility of implementing some form of heat exchange system that would maintain isolation between the various areas of the hatchery, but also permit effective use to be made of the waste heat. After intensive development, a two-stage solution was produced.
The two stage approach
The primary stage uses a water to air heat exchanger to remove the heat from the return water of the cooling system that supplies the incubator. This is then used to heat the incoming airflow to the hatchery from, for example, 0°C to approximately 18°C. Even if used in isolation, this primary system would deliver very large energy savings.
However, the Chick Master approach also features a secondary system that makes use of the waste heat in the exhaust air from the incubators. By means of a flat plate air to air heat exchanger the secondary system boosts the temperature of the air delivered by the primary system at 18°C to around 25°C.
Only a modest amount of extra energy is now needed to warm the intake air by the final one or two degrees needed for it to reach the hatchery at target temperature.
The ideas behind this environmentally friendly and cost saving heat recovery system are straightforward. Implementing a successful system, however, involves addressing many challenges. Not the least of which is providing a dependable automation system to handle the complex functions that are needed to ensure the heat recovery process operates reliably and efficiently with a minimum need for operator intervention.
Omron provides the control
Chick Master favoured Omron products for their easy implementation and advanced functions for controlling in response to temperature changes. The Chick Master heat recovery control systems has at its heart the versatile Omron CJ1-M series programmable controllers with extensive use made of the PID control options.
The PLCs are complemented by NS series operator interface panels, a typical installation having eight or nine of these panels distributed around the plant. Also supplied by Omron are variable speed drives which themselves allow substantial energy savings to be made when the plant’s fans and pumps do not need to run at full speed.
The control system works with inputs from temperature, flow and pressure sensors to monitor all facets of the primary and secondary heat recovery installations. It also communicates with an Omron scada that provides centralised access to key parameters and can, for example, display flow rates, valve positions and operating pressures in real-time.
Advantage has also been taken of the flexible communication facilities offered by the Omron PLCs to implement a remote diagnostic system. This allows Chick Master to access plants anywhere in the world via the Internet to monitor their status. In almost all cases, it is possible to deal with reported faults without the cost and inconvenience of a site visit.
Chick Master heat recovery systems are now in operation at a number of sites globally and statistics give a clear indication of the enormous potential for delivering energy and cost savings thanks to efficient control from Omron.
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