Valmet's innovative approach in process industries: Valmet DNAe DCS

Jun 12, 2024

Hera S.p.A uses the new Valmet DNAe automation system with Valmet’s pretreatment BioTrac biotechnology to run their testing facility for processing green waste and boosting the circular economy.

Valmet’s Pretreatment BioTrac biotechnology. The steam explosion unit increases the yield of the process

In 2023, Valmet and Hera S.p.A cooperated on the start-up of a new testing facility for green waste pretreatment technology and automation solutions as part of the EU-funded Life Steam project. The Hera Group is one of Italy’s largest multiutility companies in the waste treatment, water and energy sectors, and their brand-new pretreatment plant 
for anaerobic digestion is located near Bologna.

Turning waste into revenue
“The project will study the pretreatment of low-value biomaterial with the aim of developing a circular economy that increases process sustainability and creates 
revenue,” says Salvatore Molè, Head of Operations, Renewable Energy Business Unit, Hera Group. “The goal is to convert low-value green waste into advanced biofuels for the transportation sector and fertilizer for the agricultural sector.”
The plant itself consists of two main sections: a pretreatment unit for green waste and a steam explosion unit. For the steam explosion process, Hera implemented Valmet’s BioTrac system, which allows the process to be optimized and generates a significant increase in the output of biogas.

The Valmet DNAe automation system is a good fit for the renewable industry, enabling 
total plant control, from feed to fuel.

Equipped with the new Valmet DNAe 
The plant uses Valmet’s latest automation system, Valmet DNAe, which combines the control and monitoring of both sections of the plant. This allows Hera to oversee and control the whole process from start to finish from a single control room.
Valmet DNAe is a next-generation distributed control system designed to solve the process control challenges of today and tomorrow. It has built-in cybersecurity and a simplified system architecture that enables further digitalization of plant operations.
At Hera’s pretreatment plant, the automation system consists of the Valmet DNAe automation system software and hardware, with a central control room. In addition, 
the latest cabinets with new IO cards were implemented. 

Continuous data availability
Hera’s automation experts are very happy with the availability of continuous data and how easy it is to follow data trends. This allows them to go back in time or predict outcomes, as well as providing a real-time view of the plant’s production. Thanks to its ease of use, 
the Valmet DNAe User Interface enables any operator to easily select relevant variables to create data trends and to view historical data and improvement points. As the biomass 
that is treated at the plant can vary greatly in consistency, this is very helpful in managing the system.
Valmet’s automation system gives the plant a unique set of controls, finetuned for its specific process and setup. The control room is more than a monitoring station, providing detailed information about every part of the process, while enabling operators to create workflows and sequences at any time to improve the process. “We have everything under one roof, and managing the whole process is very easy,” says Stefano Longo, Life Steam 
Operations Manager, Hera Group


The plant uses Valmet's new Signal I/O, a single channel, hot-swappable I/O module for Valmet DNAe.

With the easy-to-use Valmet DNAe User Interface, any operator can easily select relevant variables to create data trends


Implemented in close collaboration
Given the system’s pilot nature, there was quite a learning curve, and the journey to the final start-up took some time. However, according to Hera, Valmet has been a great help in setting up the whole plant. Throughout the process, there was great communication with the service people and a good flow of the right information. Although some modifications to the original design were needed once the project started, Valmet’s involvement and suggestions have been helpful to the process of improving the system. 
“Our experience with Valmet’s service people was great,” says Longo. “During the project, when implementations or adjustments were needed on the plant or automation side, Valmet always provided Hera with good service at short notice.” For example, some software modifications were needed to get the automation system running at the optimal speed, and these were done swiftly. In addition, whenever there were any failures, Hera found it a great benefit to be able to change the I/O cards as easily as if they were batteries in a remote control. “And the best part is that we didn’t need to stop operating the plant to do this,” Longo says.


The Valmet DNAe automation system ensures high data availability, and the simple user interface gives operators a clear overview.

Promising first results
Since the project started, Valmet and Hera have collaborated closely to get the system up and running and achieve the desired results. Hera is very happy and proud of the results so far. As the project aims to utilize low-value biowaste, the biomass raw material’s variable quality posed the biggest challenge. However, thanks to good communication, progress has been made, and the plant now runs continuously throughout the day. “It’s too early to say what the final outcome with the anaerobic digestion will be, but the initial results are promising and on a par with the production we expected,” says Davide Nascetti, Green Gas Development Manager, Hera Group. “In the months ahead, pretreated material production will be increased, along with the load of the anaerobic reactor, so that we can measure the actual outcome and yield.”  
Hera is more than satisfied with the Valmet DNAe automation system, its ease of implementation and use, and the amount and continuity of data available. The Valmet DNAe automation system is proving a good fit for the renewable industry, enabling total plant control, from feed to fuel. 


The control room is more than a monitoring station – it gives detailed information about every part of the process.


Giuseppe Tortorici
Sales Manager, Energy & Process Systems, Automation
+39 023031864


Valmet DNAe automation system optimizes circularity at Hera S.p.A.

In 2023, Valmet and Hera S.p.A cooperated on the startup of a new testing facility for green waste pretreatment technology and automation solutions, as part of the EU-funded Life Steam project.