Advanced computing and control systems transform chemical plants

Paul Boughton

Chemical companies rely increasingly on advanced computing and control systems to keep their plants at peak efficiency. Eugene McCarthy reports.

Honeywell has introduced several new technologies that will transform control rooms, including an advanced dashboard to help chemical and other process plants better manage control system cyber security.

Other new control-room technologies include the Experion Collaboration Station with expanded capability, Premium Platform for Experion Virtualisation Solutions, and the newest version of Honeywell's OneWireless network.

Reduced operator fatigue

The company has also recently previewed a futuristic console for its Experion process knowledge system (PKS) Orion platform that reduces operator fatigue with an improved, ergonomic design that features a larger display and new alarm lighting. Honeywell expects to launch the Experion Orion console - which was designed based on input from operators - with the platform's next release in 2014 to provide better mobility for operators while improving situational awareness.

"In many ways, the control room of the future won't be limited to the control room at all, and that concept is perfectly illustrated through technologies like OneWireless, because it extends the control room to the field," said Jason Urso, chief technology officer, Honeywell Process Solutions. "At the same time, because we expect increasing connectivity, we'll see a greater need for cyber security management systems like the Cyber Security Dashboard, and collaboration solutions like Experion Collaboration Station. These solutions complement each other to improve overall plant safety, reliability, efficiency, and sustainability."

Common link

The common link between all of these solutions is the ability to help make control room personnel more quickly aware of what's happening in their facilities.

For example, Experion Collaboration Station enables faster responses to both routine and emergency situations by displaying a common view of how distributed assets at multiple locations are functioning. This allows plants to rapidly establish communication among centralised operations, field operations and operational specialists in separate locations.

This tool is especially well-suited for production sites with distributed assets and those with centralised control rooms.

For its part, the Premium Platform for Experion Virtualisation Solutions leverages blade server technology to customise to the specific control applications needed by a customer. Premium Platform reduces setup time by up to 90 per cent, generates up to 40 per cent more energy savings and has 22 per cent greater density than alternative virtualised server platforms.

In addition, the platform has a longer lifecycle, reduced facility footprint and remote management capabilities in a package that is pre-configured, saving time to deploy.

Reduced energy usage

Meanwhile Emerson Process Management's support services have helped the MOL Group increase throughput, improve product quality and reduce energy usage at the Algyõ gas plant in Hungary. Control loop audits, advanced process control project management, and model predictive control project support have together helped MOL achieve savings of over EUR9million (£7.6million) since 2006.

The Algyõ plant, located near Szeged, can process up to 12 millionm3/d of gas. The plant includes three columns on each of the two distillation column trains.

"The co-operation between MOL and Emerson has resulted in great achievements, since distillation columns involve highly interactive, multivariable processes that are difficult to control," said Károly Oláh, production manager at MOL. "Emerson has completed a number of major projects at our plant that have enabled significant reductions in process variability, provided large energy savings and reduced emissions."

The relationship between the two companies started in 2006, when MOL Group employed consultants from Emerson's control performance service to carry out a detailed audit of control loops, valves and instruments to identify areas requiring maintenance, replacement, tuning or redesign.

The improved control loop performance reduced the variability of key process parameters by 84 per cent. Loop optimisation also reduced re-boiler duty and heating requirements, saving EUR670,000 (£564,000) per year in natural gas equivalent and cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 4.3 per cent.

In 2009 MOL took advantage of the DeltaV system's embedded advanced process control (APC) capabilities by adding Emerson's SmartProcess Distillation Optimiser. This technology enables model predictive control for distillation columns and has yielded further benefits including better control of the product quality - which in turn enabled MOL to further decrease costs by reducing the quantity of product blending required.

Predictive control

Emerson provided support for this project covering the operation of the unit when using model predictive control. The project was managed by Emerson's European strategic services group, with support from the local Emerson team in Hungary. Emerson's distillation solution has now been applied to five of the plant's six gas distillation columns, reducing energy costs by EUR1,200,000 (£1,010,000) per year.

The most recent project at the plant was a performance audit of the model predictive control based on MOL's current operation and plant operating objectives (Fig1).

Following Emerson's recommendations, changes have been made to the control system for two of the columns. The changes included modifying the structure of the regulatory control scheme; introducing a new component to the model predictive control scheme to better predict and account for impurities; and updating the procedure for using laboratory data within the calculations.

Managing heat supply

The changes made at the plant have also reduced the site heat load, which prompted MOL to look at how best the heat supply can be managed for the whole site. Emerson is supporting this project with a study to evaluate the heat balance across the site, as well as the heat loads on the furnace. Emerson's support will include designing and implementing the recommended modifications.

"Our relationship with Emerson has been very successful in improving the performance of our Algyõ gas plant," continued Oláh. "Emerson's outstanding support and extensive industry experience has established them as trusted partners, and we will continue to use their local and global resources whenever the need arises."

More functionality

Aspen Technology has released V8.3 of its aspenONE software. The release includes new functionality in Aspen HYSYS software - Acid Gas Cleaning to model gas sweetening units, and Pressure Safety Valve Sizing integrated from the acquisition of PSVPlus, which allows process engineers to size pressure safety valves as an integral part of the overall process design for the first time.

Both Acid Gas Cleaning and Pressure Safety Valve Sizing are included in Aspen HYSYS in a single modelling environment with intuitive workflows. These new capabilities enable users to optimise processes faster and to produce inherently safer designs.

Commenting on the new release, Paolo Cari, a process engineer with Saipem, said, "The new Acid Gas Cleaning is a major step forward for gas process modelling and optimisation.

" It will help us accelerate our projects by setting up he acid gas treatment model as an integral part of a gas process in HYSYS.

"Using it with the Activated Economics and Activated Energy features in HYSYS, we can also easily optimise our entire gas plant to further reduce our capital and energy costs."

Mehul Gandhi, senior process engineer with Petrofac, added, "The new safety analysis is great for the relief analysis of the process unit. We can now quickly estimate relieving fluid properties and conditions, size the relief valves and produce required documentation - all without leaving HYSYS. This will minimise errors, improve the quality and speed up our work significantly."

Explandiung mbile information on the plant

Invensys, now part of Schneider Electric, has acquired the SmartGlance mobile reporting product of Sarla Analytics.

Founded in 2010, Sarla Analytics' mission is to leverage the power of enterprise mobility to increase productivity, reduce costs and streamline operations. SmartGlance, the industrial mobile reporting business app, delivers secure, on-demand access to rich, graphical reports from any operations data source via mobile devices, allowing industrial personnel to make smarter, faster decisions from anywhere, at any time and on any device.

"Acquiring this technology accelerates our delivery of solutions that leverage the power of mobile devices and managed systems via cloud and SaaS models," said Rob McGreevy, vice president of platform and applications software solutions at Invensys. "It strengthens our current leadership position in mobile industrial data reporting and reinforces our commitment to deliver access to information, analytics and key performance indicators to a user's device of choice."

SmartGlance provides connectors for accessing data from different manufacturing sources, including both Invensys and non-Invensys systems. This offers Invensys customers real-time access to important business data alerts and notifications. It also allows them to view that information in a native mobile application optimised for any mobile device, such as smart phones and tablets.

SmartGlance supports quick and more accurate decisions, enabling the ability to take action, share data and collaborate with colleagues. Additionally, it permits the ability to push data from virtually any data source, including popular process historians and any SQL database. All this, with a very fast and simple implementation, small install footprint and no additional hardware required.