Control technology improves refining and chemicals industry

4th March 2016 By: Malusi Mkhize - journalist

Control technology  improves refining and  chemicals industry

QUALITY DECISIONS Advance process control technology enables petrochemical companies to make decisions that lead to optimum functioning capacity of refineries and plants

Advance process control (APC) technology has become an industry standard for petrochemicals and chemicals companies, owing to its ability to improve the overall management of a refinery, says process and operations management solutions provider BluESP chief engineer Dr Kevin Brooks.

He tells Engineering News that APC is a software technology comprising a set of tools and techniques that are designed to facilitate the basic operation, control and automation requirements for plant maintenance.

For the petrochemicals industry, the APC technology used is the Model Predicative Control. “This technique uses mathematics to map out a course for a refinery or plant using computer programs that are run every minute and they determine which operational decisions need to be taken to best position the refinery for success,” explains Brooks.

Operational decisions determined by Model Predicative Control are in the areas of particular performance of the refinery or economic improvement opportunities, besides others.

“Since the technology is based on mathematical models that include experiments or simulations, it provides a measureable solution for the profitability of the refinery,” adds Brooks, noting that improvements in profitability range from 2% to 5% on average.

BluESP’s APC technology has optimised processes such as crude distillation, fluid catalytic cracking, vacuum distillation, alkylation, petrol and diesel blending, fuel gas systems, hydrotreating, and methane reforming at petrochemicals plants.

Brooks mentions that the APC computer software requires a senior BlueESP technician to configure it, making the technology “a cost-effective solution for the industry, as companies are guaranteed a return on investment six months after its implementation.

“This makes the technology a cost-effective solution for the industry.”

Local petrochemicals companies for which BlueESP has provided process and operations management solutions include energy and chemicals group Sasol and petroleum products refiner and marketer Chevron. International companies include multinational oil and gas company Shell and Italy-based energy company ENI.