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A. J .

Taylor, Honeywel l Hi -Spec Sol uti ons,


Southampton, UK; T. G. la Grange, Honeywel l
Hi -Spec Sol uti ons, Johannesburg, South Afri ca; and
G. Z. Gous, Sasol Technol ogy, Secunda, South Afri ca
A
ppl yi ng proven mul ti vari abl e predi cti ve control
(MPC) techni ques coupl ed wi th robust onl i ne
product qual i ty predi cti ons i s an effecti ve way
to maxi mi ze uni t profi tabi l i ty. Thi s approach has been
used throughout duri ng a joi nt project on a refi nery i n
South Afri ca. The resul ts for the hydrotreater uni t are
astoundi ng, wi th an esti mated payback peri od of l ess
than two months.
Use of MPC i s not new i n the HPI sector; earl y gen-
er ati on appr oaches date back to the 1980s. Moder n
MPC engi nes i ncorporate l eadi ng-edge sol uti on tech-
ni ques to pr ovi de maxi mum r obustness and per for -
mance, to the advantage of the process operator. Thi s
technol ogy has been used extensi vel y to squeeze hi d-
den profi ts out of processi ng uni ts worl dwi de.
Wi th thi s proven technol ogy readi l y avai l abl e, the
chal l enge for control practi ti oners has been accurate
defi ni ti on of uni t constrai nts for onl i ne control i n par-
ti cul ar, measurement of product qual i ti es. New onl i ne
anal yzers are often i ncl uded i n control projects but suf-
fer the drawbacks of cost, i mpl ementati on del ays and
ongoi ng mai ntenance. Cal cul ati ng pr oduct qual i ti es
onl i ne offers a cost-effecti ve al ternati ve that can often
i mprove project economi cs substanti al l y.
Many MPC vendor s offer l i br ar i es of gener i c al go-
ri thms that provi de onl i ne i nferences of common refi n-
i ng product qual i ti es. After i ni ti al tuni ng of the i nfer-
ence, accur acy i s mai ntai ned by automated update
usi ng l aboratory resul ts. For the hydrotreater uni t, a
key product qual i ty i nference i s devel oped based on a
fi r st-pr i nci pl es appr oach to the equati on for m, whi l e
another pr oduct qual i ty i s cal cul ated usi ng a gener i c
al gori thm from a l i brary. Thi s hybri d approach resul ts
i n accurate onl i ne cal cul ati on of the product qual i ti es
that l i mi t uni t operati on.
Benefi ts r eal i zed fr om advanced contr ol i ncl ude a
70%+ r educti on i n standar d devi ati on of the two l i m-
i ti ng pr oduct qual i ti es. Thi s al l ows movement cl oser
to speci fi cati on l i mi ts and r esul ts i n associ ated yi el d
and reactor severi ty reducti on benefi ts. Reactor sever-
i ty r educti on l eads to a substanti al i mpr ovement i n
petr ol pr oduct octane number and hydr ogen con-
sumpti on savi ngs. The bul k of the benefi ts resul t from
r educed pr oduct fl ar i ng.
HYDROCARBON PROCESSING /SEPTEMBER 2000
Modern advanced control
pays back rapidly
A hydrotreater example illustrates the potential
Fig. 1. T h e h y d ro tre a te r u n it c o n s is ts o f th re e re a c to rs in s e rie s
with a n H
2
S strip p e r a n d p ro d u c t sp litte r.
Reprinted from: September 2000 issue, p. 47- 50. Used with permission.
Process description. The Sasol hydr otr eater uni t
(Fi g. 1) i s a fai rl y common refi nery uni t wi th a nomi nal
capaci ty of 100 m
3
/h. I t consi sts of thr ee r eactor s i n
ser i es wi th an H
2
S str i pper and a pr oduct spl i tter.
Because the feedstock i s sul fur fr ee, di methyl di sul -
fi de i s i njected i nto the feed stream to act as an acti -
vati on agent for the catal ystthi s pr oduces the H
2
S
i n the reactor effl uent. Feed to the uni t i s hot rundown
di rect from the catal yti c pol ymeri zati on uni t and con-
si sts of a bl end of petrol and di esel components wi th
a rel ati vel y hi gh ol efi n content. The three major prod-
ucts are stri pper offgas to the fl are system and petrol
and di esel bl end stocks.
The feed str eam i s spl i t i nto the thr ee fr esh feed
f l ows to each r eactor. The char ge to r eactor #1 i s
mi xed wi th H
2
-r i ch r ecycl e gas and l i qui d r ecycl e
befor e enter i ng the char ge fur nace. The char ge fur -
nace effl uent enter s the r eactor wher e the ol efi ni c
components ar e conver ted i nto par affi ns. Si nce the
r eacti on i s exother mi c, ther e i s a temper atur e r i se
acr oss the r eactor.
Effl uent fr om r eactor #1 i s mi xed wi th r eactor #2
fresh feed and a sl i pstream of recycl e gas (quench gas)
to regul ate i nl et temperature to reactor #2. Si mi l arl y,
reactor #2 effl uent i s mi xed wi th reactor #3 fresh feed
and the appropri ate quench gas dosage.
Effl uent from reactor #3 fl ows to the product sep-
ar ator. Vapor i s di r ected to the r ecycl e gas com-
pr essor sucti on, whi l e the l i qui d accumul ated fl ows
to ei ther the r ecover y secti on f l ash dr um or the
char ge fur nace as l i qui d r ecycl e. Ener gy i s r ecov-
er ed fr om the r eactor effl uent to r educe the char ge
fur nace duty l oad.
The fl ash dr um bottoms i s pr eheated vi a a feed-
effl uent exchanger befor e enter i ng the H
2
S str i p-
per. Str i pper bottom temper atur e i s r egul ated to
ensur e that adequate H
2
S i s r emoved fr om the bot-
tom pr oduct. Str i pper bottom pr oduct fl ows to the
pr oduct spl i tter, wher e the petr ol and di esel pr od-
ucts ar e separ ated.
The key product qual i ty constrai nts are H
2
S content
i n the petrol product, together wi th the di esel product
fl ash poi nt and bromi ne number. The bromi ne number
i s a refl ecti on of di esel ol efi n content and i s regul ated
vi a reactor severi ty.
Si nce the uni t char ge r ate i s l i mi ted by upstr eam
constrai nts, the mai n economi c dri vers are maxi mi z-
i ng the combi ned product val ue and mi ni mi zi ng uti l -
i ty costs. Currentl y, the pri mary objecti ve i s to maxi -
mi ze di esel producti on.
Advanced control approach. The nature of the uni t
i s such that the control and opti mi zati on objecti ves can
be el egantl y separated between the reactor and recov-
ery secti ons. Thi s al l ows the rel ati vel y si mpl e approach
of two MPC appl i cati ons to be adoptedone each for
the reactor and recovery secti ons.
Desi gn of the two appl i cati ons i s based on contr ol
and opti mi zati on objecti ves for each secti on. Pri or to
MPC commi ssi oni ng, the control objecti ves were man-
aged open-l oop by the DCS oper ator, whi l e the opti -
mization objectives were not actively pursued. The MPC
appl i cati on has the advantage of ri gorousl y honori ng
the control needs whi l e opti mi zi ng the uni t operati on i n
an i ntegrated manner.
Reactor section control objectives:
Honor di esel bromi ne number speci fi cati on
Honor reactor T and P l i mi ts
Honor furnace and compressor l i mi ts
Honor rel evant val ve posi ti on l i mi ts to mai ntai n
regul atory control i ntegri ty.
Reactor section optimization objectives:
Mi ni mi ze reactor severi ty (temperature) to di esel
bromi ne number speci fi cati on
Mi ni mi ze fuel gas consumpti on
Mi ni mi ze quench fl ows to reactors #2 and #3
Bal ance reactor Ts.
The objecti ve of bal anci ng reactor Ts i s i ntroduced
as a means of encouragi ng uni form agei ng of the three
reactor beds. Thi s al so provi des some val ue-added way
of soaki ng up the avai l abl e degrees of freedom.
Recovery section control objectives:
Honor maxi mum H
2
S i n petrol speci fi cati on
Honor mi ni mum di esel fl ash poi nt speci fi cati on
Honor furnace l i mi ts
Honor rel evant val ve posi ti on l i mi ts to mai ntai n
regul atory control i ntegri ty.
Recovery section optimization objectives:
Maxi mi ze di esel yi el d to mi ni mum di esel fl ash
poi nt speci fi cati on
Maxi mi ze petrol yi el d to maxi mum H
2
S content
speci fi cati on
Mi ni mi ze fuel gas consumpti on.
The maxi mi zi ng di esel yi el d objecti ve i s met by l ever-
agi ng two mechani sms i n the spl i tter:
1. Stabi l i zi ng and control l i ng di esel fl ash poi nt just
above the mi ni mum l i mi t
2. Maxi mi zi ng fracti onati on to i mprove the cut and
(gi ven 1. above) further i ncrease di esel yi el d.
Onl i ne qual i t y c al c ul at i ons . Th e fas t-tr ack
natur e of the pr oj ect, coupl ed wi th the economi c
debi ts associ ated wi th i nstal l i ng new pr oduct qual -
i ty anal yzer s, encour ages devel opment of onl i ne
cal cul ati ons for key pr oduct qual i ti es. Thr ee pr od-
uct qual i ti es need to be cal cul ated: petr ol H
2
S con-
tent, di esel fl ash poi nt and the di esel br omi ne num-
ber. The natur e of the pr ocess chemi str y coupl ed
wi th the var i ous opti ons avai l abl e di ctate that a
r ange of appr oaches i s r equi r ed.
Petrol H
2
S content. The nature of the product test,
ei ther a posi ti ve or negati ve resul t, adds some compl i -
HYDROCARBON PROCESSING /SEPTEMBER 2000
Fig. 2. D ie se l fla sh p o in t d istrib u tio n .
cati on to pr ocess constr ai nt measur ement. Si nce the
pr i mar y i nfl uence on petr ol qual i ty i s the amount of
offgas fr om the str i pper, we tested the use of a ver y
si mpl e fl ow r ati o cal cul ati on (offgas:uni t feed) as an
appropri ate i nference of the constrai nt. Al though tri v-
i al , thi s si mpl e cal cul ati on pr oved to be effecti ve i n
mai ntai ni ng the mi ni mum offgas fl ow requi red to meet
the petrol H
2
S speci fi cati on.
Diesel flash point. The di esel fl ash poi nt cal cul a-
ti on i s i mpl emented usi ng a gener i c al gor i thm fr om a
pr opr i etar y l i br ar y of onl i ne cal cul ati ons. Hi stor i cal
data wer e u s ed to tu n e th e i n fer en ce off l i n e, i n a
spr eadsheet envi r onment, befor e onl i ne i mpl ementa-
ti on. The cal cul ati on i s constantl y tuned onl i ne by usi ng
l abor ator y r esul ts.
Diesel bromine number. The equati on for m of
the cal cul ati on i s deri ved usi ng a fi rst-pri nci pl es reac-
ti on rate approach. Thi s resul ts i n an easy-to-use equa-
ti on that uses avai l abl e pl ant measurements as i nputs.
Ei ghteen months hi stori cal data were used for fi tti ng
the three tuni ng parameters of the cal cul ati on. Onl i ne
i nputs used i n the cal cul ati on ar e the r eactor char ge
fl ows, outl et temperatures and the l i qui d recycl e fl ow.
Catal yst l oadi ng for the r eactor s ar e al so i mpor tant
par ameter s; the tuni ng par ameter s wi l l need r efi t-
ti ng i f the r eactor s ar e r el oaded wi th catal yst l oads
devi ati ng si gni fi cantl y fr om the cur r ent l oads. The
cal cul ati on i s fi ne-tuned onl i ne by usi ng l abor ator y
r esul ts to ensur e ongoi ng accur acy of the pr edi cti on.
Devel opment of thi s cal cul ati on wi l l be the subject of
a futur e publ i cati on.
Benefits. Fol l owi ng successful commi ssi oni ng of our
MPC appl i cati ons, a formal post audi t of the benefi ts
was conducted. Thi s acti vi ty i nvol ved compari ng l abo-
ratory and operati ng data over three months pri or to
the start of i mpl ementati on wi th a one month perfor-
mance test of the MPC appl i cati ons.
The appl i cati on uti l i zati ons recorded duri ng the per-
formance test were 98.5+%. Thi s i l l ustrates the excel -
l ent operator acceptance and endorses the appl i cati on
desi gns. Tangi bl e benef i ts can be categor i zed i nto
i mpr oved pr oduct qual i ty contr ol , i ncr eased pr oduct
val ue and reduced uti l i ty costs.
Tabl e 1 i l l ustr ates the qual i ty contr ol i mpr ovement
vi a the si zeabl e r educti on i n pr oper ty standar d devi a-
ti ons. These i mprovements are a di rect refl ecti on of the
hi gh per for mance of the MPC softwar e engi ne coupl ed
wi th the accuracy of the onl i ne qual i ty predi cti ons. The
r esul ts endor se the commonl y used r ul e-of-thumb for
pr edi cti ng MPC benefi ts based on the assumpti on that
the standar d devi ati on wi l l be hal ved.
1
(Al though thi s
has proved to be a conservati ve assumpti on i n thi s case,
expectati ons shoul d be consi der ed to be a functi on of
the speci fi c pr ocess.)
The i ncr ease i n di esel fl ash poi nt was unexpected
si nce the dri ve i n the spl i tter i s to move fl ash poi nt to
the mi ni mum l i mi t (Fi g. 2). Thi s resul t i s a functi on of
the base case data, wher e appr oxi matel y 50% of the
sampl es vi ol ated the speci fi cati on l i mi t. The post MPC
data set showed onl y 8% of the sampl es vi ol ated the
spec. Effecti vel y, the fl ash poi nt l i mi t was used as a
target, whereas the MPC appl i cati on honored i t as a
l i mi t. Despi te thi s i mpr ovement i n pr oduct qual i ty,
di esel yi el d was sti l l i ncr eased as a r esul t of the
i mproved col umn fracti onati on effect.
The total i ncrease i n yi el d of sal eabl e products was
2.9%. The substanti al i ncrease i n petrol product yi el d
i s a functi on of the i mpr oved r ecover y of C
5
and C
4
components fr om the str i pper offgas str eamthi s
tr ansl ates i nto a si gni fi cant economi c benefi t due to
the upl i ft bei ng fr om fl ar e. A 19% r educti on i n str i p-
per offgas was achi eved wi thout vi ol ati ng the petr ol
H
2
S speci fi cati on l i mi t. The key r esul t her e i s that
the C
5
content i n the str i pper offgas was r educed by
95%. The petr ol yi el d i ncr ease benefi t was i denti fi ed
dur i ng the functi onal desi gn phase and r esul ted i n
the feasi bi l i ty study benefi ts esti mate bei ng dwar fed
i n the post audi t.
Offl i ne spl i tter col umn operati on model s were used
to pr edi ct the di esel yi el d effect of r educi ng the fl ash
poi nt agai n towar d the speci fi cati on l i mi t and tol er -
ati ng a compr omi se on the per centage of spec vi ol a-
ti ons. The r esul ts wer e pr oposed to the pl anni ng
depar tment for consi der ati on. Tabl e 3 i l l ustr ates the
thr ee scenar i os.
Al though uti l i ty consumpti on has an associ ated cost,
not al l uti l i ty streams were reduced to achi eve the over-
al l economi c opti mum operati ng poi nt.
Reduced hydrogen and charge furnace fuel gas con-
sumpti on i s a di rect resul t of the reduced reactor sever-
i ty achi eved by control l i ng and opti mi zi ng the di esel
HYDROCARBON PROCESSING /SEPTEMBER 2000
Table 1. Product quality control improvements
% standard Average value
Quality parameter deviation reduction movement
D ie se l b ro m in e 7 7 3 . 6 B r in c re a se
D ie se l fla sh p o in t 7 1 1 . 3 C in c re a se
P e tro l o c ta n e n u m b e r 7 1 1 . 7 5 R O N in c re a se
Table 2. Product yield improvements
Product % net yield increase % of total benefits
D ie se l 0 . 5 3 . 6
P e tro l 2 . 4 8 5 . 9 *
* T h e b e n e fit c a lc u la te d in c lu d e s th e e ffe c ts o f R O N a n d R VP in c re a se s, c o m b in e d with
th e yie ld in c re a se .
Table 3. Diesel quality/ yield options
Average
flash point % net yield % spec
Period spec limit, C increase violations
P re -M P C 0 . 0 5 0
P o st-M P C 1 . 3 0 . 5 8
P ro p o se d p o st-M P C 0 . 4 1 . 3 3 3
Table 4. Utility consumption shifts
% reduction in % of total
Utility specific consumption benefits
H yd ro g e n 1 2 1 2 . 0
C h a rg e fu rn a c e fu e l g a s 1 8 0 . 4
S trip p e r re b o ile r fu e l g a s 4 0 . 1 * *
S p litte r re b o ile r fu e l g a s 3 0 1 . 8 * *
* * D e b its a sso c ia te d with in c re a se d re b o ile r firin g a re q u a n tifie d in re la tio n to th e n e t
b e n e fit.
F/100/10-2000 Copyright 2000 by Gulf Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Printed in USA.
br omi ne number. The i ncr ease i n fuel gas consump-
ti on on the stri pper and spl i tter reboi l ers i s an i nter-
esti ng i l l ustr ati on of the tr ue economi cs of maxi mi z-
i ng yi el d over mi ni mi zi ng uti l i ty usage (i .e., the MPC
appl i cati on chose to maxi mi ze fr acti onati on at the
expense of furnace duty).
Success of the MPC appl i cati ons i s echoed through-
out the cl i ent or gani zati on fr om the contr ol r oom to
the boardroom. Project resul ts endorse appl yi ng MPC
as an effecti ve way to maxi mi ze uni t pr of i tabi l i ty
wi th mi ni mal addi ti onal hardware and favorabl e pro-
ject cashfl ow.
Key project parameters i ncl ude:
No uni t shutdown pr er equi si te for pr oj ect
acti vi ti es
Approxi matel y seven man-months of engi neeri ng
hours consumed (from functi onal desi gn to compl eti ng
the benefi ts audi t)
Operator acceptance extremel y hi gh
Audi ted benef i ts mor e than f i ve ti mes those
esti mated
Pr oj ect payback esti mated at l ess than two
months. I
LITERATURE CITED
1
Marti n, G. D., L. E. Turpi n, and R. P. Cl i ne, Esti mati ng control functi on benefi ts, Hydro-
carbon Processing, June 1991.
Andrew Taylor is a consultant with Honeywell
Hi-Spec Solutions. His responsibilities include
technical leadership and project management
on various advanced control projects. Previ-
ously, he was involved in implementing
advanced control projects with Mobil in Aus-
tralia. Mr. Taylor holds a BEng (EngSci) (Hons)
degree from the University of Auckland and is
a chartered professional member of IEAust.
George la Grange is a control engineer with
Honeywell Hi-Spec Solutions. His responsi-
bilities include controller implementation on
various advanced control projects. Previ-
ously, he was involved in pyrometallurgical
research and development, as well as having
responsibility for the pilot plant control sys-
tems. Mr. la Grange holds a BEng (Chem)
degree from the University of Pretoria.
Gustaf Gous is a principal control engineer at
Sasol Technology, Secunda, South Africa. His
main job functions include advanced process
control and managing control projects. He
has five years of experience as a control engi-
neer. Prior to that, he was area manager of
production at the Sasol Synthetic Fuels Refin-
ery in Secunda. Mr. Gous holds a BEng (Chem)
(Hons) degree from the University of Pretoria
in South Africa.