Advances in Process Control. A veteran practitioner’s opinions - by Radu Iscovici Senior APC Consultant

Production facilities in heavy process industries like oil and gas extraction, oil refining, petrochemical, basic chemical production,metallurgy etc.are monitored and controlled by modern Distributed Control Systems-DCS.

These process control systems have hundreds and sometimes even thousands of control loops.

The process is visualized by operators on workstation displays. Have their owndisplays on engineering stations.  They use them to choose the suitable control algorithm equation for the target loop. Control loop tuning parameters are readily accessed and can be changed instantly. The effect of these changes can be monitored in real-time and adjustments made if necessary. Apparently the situation is very good. However, new complex issues appear.

Issues

Many problems plaguing good process control have their roots in measuring sensors and final control elements (FCE-valves, motors, dampers etc.) misbehavior, even though much progress was recorded in this area.

Two remarks:

  • The large amount of more or less sophisticated control schemes and control algorithm equations, and their parameters and constants make their selection quite difficult without proper knowledge and/or matching tools.
  • The DCS is more than a control platform. It has the capability to supply an impressive amount of information about the industrial process state and also the equipment state including measuring devices and final control elements.

The issue evolved from an historical lack of information into a flood of data. These data must be collected, processed, configured and prioritized in order to be transformed into useful information for the potential information clients: operations engineers, process engineers, maintenance specialists and management.

To add to the above issues, the process control personnel was dramatically reduced in most industries all over the world, either by outsourcing jobs, or by promoting specialist to higher managerial positions. Newcomers entering the area do not possess the necessary knowledge, experience and cannot acquire them due to lack of mentoring.

Solutions

Fortunately, there are solutions to the issues mentioned above. Last generation software tools are developed and constantly improved based on the IT rapid progress  but, more important, on embedding the experts knowledge and experience in the area of process control.

These tools help operations engineers solve quickly control loops issues resulting from inherent industrial process varying conditions. Also, these tools diagnose the status of sensors and FCEs and predict possible failures which is valuable information for maintenance technicians.

Moreover, a process control training course was developed using these software tools. The course utilizes a practical, hands-on approach. No theoretical backgroundor high-level mathematical knowledge needed.

These solutions are provided by  Control Station Inc.:

http://controlstation.com/#

represented  in Eastern Europe by Ludan Engineering SRL:

http://www.ludan.ro/services/

 

The solutions include Plant ESP (Control Loop Performance Monitoring -CLPM-Suite), Loop-PRO (the top suite for loop tuning according to Control Magasine) and also the very popularPractical Process Control trening course.