SK Energy
SK Innovation and SK Energy members talk about AI applied Intelligent Wastewater Treatment Plant
2022.04.27 | SKinno News

▲ (Left) Jin Dong-bok, Environment Operation Unit, SK Energy and (right) Unit Cheong Ui-won, R&D Strategy Unit, SK Innovation


SK Innovation Ulsan Complex (hereinafter “Ulsan CLX”) is the first among oil refinery companies to have successfully built a wastewater treatment system using advanced AI technology – Intelligent Wastewater Plant (Intelligent WWTP). Through this, not only the wastewater problem but also the working environment of the members at Ulsan CLX was improved. Let’s meet Jin Dong-bok, Leader of Environment Operation Unit, Petroleum Production Division of SK Energy, and Cheong Ui-won, Strategy Planner at R&D Strategy Unit, R&D Strategy Office of SK Innovation, who introduced the Intelligent WWTP to Ulsan CLX, to learn more about the stories behind this smart system.


Q1. First, could you explain what Intelligent WWTP is and the background of building this system?


Cheong Ui-won: Intelligent WWTP is literally a wastewater treatment system combined with AI technology. Recently, regulations and demands for protecting environment have been reinforced and our company is also pursuing changes and innovations based on ESG management. At Ulsan CLX, there will be a generational shift between juniors and senior members in the field in 5 or 10 years. Therefore, establishing Intelligent WWTP is one of our proactive responses to these changes.


Jin Dong-bok: To stably dispose various wastewater at Ulsan CLX, we have regularly performed sampling and analyze the concentration of pollutants in a laboratory. However, it was impossible for us to monitor the changes of the properties of wastewater in real time, and sometimes we could not recognize the inflow of malignant wastewater because of some troubles occurring in the process.


To solve these problems, we needed to build a system to predict when to discharge wastewater by continuously monitoring the changes of the properties of wastewater in real time and examining processing status of wastewater. This is how we came up with the establishment of Intelligent WWTP using AI technology and became the first among oil refinery companies in South Korea to have to system.


▲ The integrated wastewater treatment plant at SK Innovation Ulsan CLX


Q2. What has changed after the deployment of Intelligent WWTP at Ulsan CLX?

Jin Dong-bok: In the past, we focused on solving problems after the problems occurred, but now we can run our wastewater treatment plant more stably by predicting and recognizing potential problems in advance and by quickly responding to them. To prepare for large-scale generational shift in the future, Intelligent WWTP can present an optimal operation guide to minimize the risk from the generational shift.



Q3. What are the upcoming plans?


Cheong Ui-won: After building and conducting a trial run of the system, we officially started operating the Intelligent WWTP on December 30 last year. The main function to predict the properties of effluent and the maturity of the function to present an optimal operation guide are not perfect yet, but we are improving the accuracy consistently collecting a lot of data and learning.


It is our ultimate goal to fully automate the operation of the wastewater treatment plant up to the level of an experienced operator by enhancing the accuracy and improving the functions ceaselessly.


Q4. Do you have any other message to our viewers/readers before we end this interview?


Jin Dong-bok: I’m proud that we were able to establish a system that contributes to our company’s ESG management and improves the working environment for our members. It was a challenging task since we had no references here, but thanks to many people’s efforts we could complete the system successfully. Thank you all once again.


When the project started, I was a junior engineer of Petroleum Production Technology 1 Unit of SK Energy, so it was a huge challenge for me to establish Intelligent WWTP at that time. Glad that I could learn a lot and enjoy working in the process. I will work harder to keep contributing to future projects, and hope that various AI systems will be built at Ulsan CLX in the future.


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