Exceptional Opportunities in Process Control – Peak and Integrated Error – Part 4

Let’s pull together this series on errors and conclude with a check list. The idea was prompted by perusing a popular book written on just the value of check lists. I didn’t think you could write a book on just one concept but the result of saving lives for surgical procedures is impressive. I know as I have gotten older, check lists are essential to just remember what I am suppose to be doing. I have found checklists to be helpful for me from both a practical and psychological viewpoint when rushed or overwhelmed with details, tasks, and objectives.

In the following list, increases in on-stream time can increase efficiency besides capacity by eliminating the time and off-spec and waste associated with abnormal operations, startup, and shutdown. An increase in yield or decrease in recycle can be taken as a decrease in raw material costs (same production rate for lower feed rate) or an increase in production rate (higher production rate for the same feed rate). The order of the list is in order of things to check and somewhat in the order of priorities.

Check List to Improve Process On-stream Time, Production Rate, and Efficiency

(composition measurements include conductivity, dissolved oxygen, pH, and turbidity)

1. Use smart transmitters with the best sensor technology and integration of process and ambient conditions compensation.

a. Avoid older technologies particularly ones with mechanical elements

b. Seek sensor and transmitter with the best sensitivity and repeatability

2. Pick sensor location and installation method to provide the most representative measurement in process with no stagnation, best velocity, fastest response, and least noise.

a. For DP and pressure transmitters, avoid impulse lines (sensing lines) by direct mounting transmitters or using diaphragm seals and filled systems

b. For DP and vortex flow meters insure uniform velocity profile

c. For thermowells and electrodes increase velocity to reduce response time and coatings but not so high to cause abrasion, static charge, or vibration

d. For thermowells and electrodes pick location with good mixing, minimal transportation delay, and least bubbles, slime, and solids

3. Use real throttle valves with smart positioners.

a. Avoid on-off and isolation valves posing as throttling valves. Go to a control valve manufacturer instead of a piping valve manufacturer

b. Seek actuator, positioner, and valve type with best sensitivity of installed flow characteristic and signal response with least stick-slip and backlash

c. Verify positioner feedback measurement is representative of internal closure member (e.g. ball, disk, or plug) and not just actuator position

4. Tune control loop with on-demand auto tuner or adaptive controller to meet loop objectives. Tuning speed is chosen to:

a. Insure an exceptionally smooth PV and output response by decreasing transfer of variability from PV to output (increasing Lambda) for:

i. level loops on surge tanks to minimize feed upsets

ii. deadtime dominant loops (deadtime >> process time constant)

iii. interacting loops (e.g. headers)

iv. loops on piping or equipment with no back mixing (e.g. blenders, heat exchangers, extruders, static mixers, sheets, webs, and yarns)

b. Provide good load rejection of moderately fast disturbances by increasing transfer of variability from PV to output (decreasing Lambda) for:

i. Fed-batch and continuous agitated vessel and column composition, level, pressure, and temperature loops

c. Provide good load rejection of extremely fast disturbances by setting the gain and reset as a factor of deadtime rather than the time constant for:

i. Continuous agitated vessel and column composition, pressure, level, and temperature loops

d. Provide minimal overshoot of setpoints of slow lag dominant loops (process time constant >> loop deadtime and slower than 10 minutes) by tuning the loops as near-integrating processes for:

i. Fed-batch and continuous agitated vessels and column composition, pressure, and temperature loops (setpoint changes occur at startup or for changes in batch phase and product grade)

e. Provide minimal peak error by maximizing controller gain even if it requires increasing reset time to maintain robustness for:

i. Prevention of SIS activation

ii. Prevention of pressure relief

iii. Prevention of environmental violation

iv. Prevention of equipment damage

5. Add DCS signal filter or damping adjustment to keep loop output fluctuations from noise less than the valve deadband to prevent excessive valve packing wear and inflicting disturbances on loop. For wireless transmitters use damping adjustment to reduce keep transmitter output fluctuations from noise less than wireless deadband to eliminate unnecessary communication and extend battery life.

6. Eliminate on-off actions

a. Replace on-off control by switches with loops.

b. Eliminate manual actions by adding loops, keeping loops in highest design mode, adding feedforward, and automating and tuning loops to handle startup and abnormal operating conditions

c. Replace pure batch with fed-batch automation by replacing discrete sequential actions (e.g. stepping feeds) with loops (e.g. throttling feeds)

7. Tune loops that create feed disturbances (e.g. surge level loops) to provide a smooth slow transition in feed rate.

8. Add cascade control to compensate for nonlinearities and pressure disturbances (e.g. secondary flow loop and secondary coolant temperature loop).

9. Add feedforward control of measurable fast disturbances not compensated by secondary loop.

10. Optimize setpoints by operating closer to constraints for production rate or product quality spec.

a. Eliminate operating margin imposed by shift’s perceived sweet spot or operating margin caused by process variability from not doing check list items 1-9

b. Find more efficient operating points based on R&D reports and virtual plant exploration – confirm with process tests

b. Add model predictive control to optimize setpoints as process conditions and market requirements change.