Mantova SEI cuts 550+ tons CO2 yearly with Gradyent's Digital Twin

4 min read

SEI, the district heating operator in Mantova, is on a strong decarbonisation journey. In the past years, SEI has been pursuing the improvement of the sustainability of the district heating network of the City of Mantova, with the goal to significantly reduce its CO2 emissions. SEI recognises digitalisation as a key enabler and has chosen Gradyent as its partner to optimise the district heating system with a Digital Twin.

SEI has a strong ambition to decarbonise its system and reduce total gas usage. To realise this, SEI is investing in renewable energy sources and improving the energy efficiency of the total system. On the latter, SEI sees data collection and analysis as key enabler in achieving its targets. In doing so, SEI is increasing its visibility on the required investments and maximising potential opportunities for smarter and greener operations.

Building and implementing a real-time Digital Twin

In 2020, SEI started the collaboration with Gradyent which has numerous collaborations with district heating companies throughout Europe. The collaboration began with developing a ‘Digital Twin’ of the district heating grid. The Gradyent Digital Twin Platform creates a digital copy of the complete grid that runs in real-time, combining geographical, weather, and sensor data with physics-based models and AI. It provides insights into what happens in every part of the system, allowing district heating companies to optimise their grid during operations to realise higher efficiencies as well as run simulations of large changes to the system.

Gradyent built a Digital Twin of the entire Mantova system and trained it with historical data that SEI had available. The data included time-series data from the production assets (the central CHP, peak boilers, and the accumulator), the network, the substations, and GIS data. Combining all the data with a thermohydraulic model could make an accurate virtual representation of the full system that matches the real-life situation. SEI was now able to evaluate accurately the benefits of working with lower temperatures in the network and saw that the potential for optimisation was significant.

The Gradyent team led the process by analysing the data, presenting main insights in several data validation workshops, and building the Digital Twin. The SEI team shared its knowledge of its district heating network and gave feedback on the findings during the workshops.

Sandro Gabrielli, Head of Energy Production at SEI: "We see Gradyent not just as a software provider but as a trusted partner who helps us in the implementation of the modeling”.

Significantly reducing heat losses and CO2 emissions

The Digital Twin calculated that the benefits of reducing heat losses with temperature reduction over a full year significantly outweighed the additional pumping costs. Also, the Digital Twin stayed within all system constraints during its minute-to-minute analysis. This created trust for the operators of SEI, showing that the Digital Twin was the right way of translating potential into value for its operators.

During the 2022-2023 thermal season, SEI successfully tested the adoption of the operating settings suggested by the Digital Twin, which made it possible to improve the efficiency of the Mantova district heating grid during actual operation and achieve a reduction of more than 550 tons of CO2 emissions per year compared to the previous operation.

Next steps: optimising the accumulator and integration with the control room

Gradyent and SEI have jointly developed a multi-year roadmap to extend the partnership to further digitise and optimise the Mantova network. In the coming months, the Digital Twin will be refined, aimed at optimising the management of the heat accumulator, and at integrating and live connecting the model in the new control room of SEI.

Altogether, SEI is able to reduce gas usage even more and benefit from the 550+ tons of CO2 usage each year. Past projects and the direct business impact have shown that a Digital Twin, functioning as a district heating autopilot, will be the way to optimise and decarbonise their district heating network in the future. 

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