Review of Deminar #8 – PID Control of Runaway Processes


To view the recording of Deminar #8, click on the above picture. If you want to just view the slides click on Deminar #8 – PID Control of Runaway Processes

Self-regulating processes are the easiest to control given similar dynamics (e.g. delays, lags, and gains), nonlinearities, and upsets. In manual, the process variable will eventually reach a steady state for a self-regulating process. Integrating processes are the next most difficult to control because in manual the process variable will always be ramping even if there are no disturbances. Runway processes are the most challenging and potentially the most dangerous because in manual the process variable is always moving and can accelerate in its divergence even if there are no disturbances. Runaway processes are termed “open loop unstable.” The acceleration is characterized by a positive feedback time constant. Both integrating and runaway processes have a low gain limit that causes slow rolling oscillations and a divergence off-scale, respectively. Integrating processes are more sensitive to integral action and secondary lags than self-regulating processes and runaway processes are more sensitive to integral action and secondary lags than integrating processes. The most common problem with integrating and runway processes is too much integral action (too small of a reset time) and the omission of derivative action for secondary lags (rate time should be set equal to largest secondary lag). Some highly exothermic polymerization reactors have proportional plus derivative control to avoid the potentially unsafe situation of someone adding too much reset action. I have been in the control room when an exothermic reactor has reached a point of no return where the temperature acceleration was so high despite full cooling, the only thing the operators could do was prepare for the rupture discs to burst and the reactor contents blow over to the flare stack tank. Highly reactive chemicals lead to rapid and complete reactions but can also lead to an uncontrollable temperature rise since the reaction rate and hence heat release doubles for every 6 degree increase in temperature. Runaway processes can look like integrating processes unless the temperature controller is left in manual long enough for the temperature change to be large enough.

Deminar #8 shows the dramatic correction needed for the tuning settings. The factors used in the short cut tuning method for near-integrators in Deminar #6 and the classic Ziegler Nichols ultimate oscillation method are detailed and demoed. Equations are offered to predict the ultimate gain and ultimate period showing the dramatic effect of a secondary process or thermowell lag and loop deadtime. If a secondary lag or the loop deadtime approaches the positive feedback time constant, the window of allowable controller gains closes and the loop is unstable for all tuning settings. The virtual plant is where you want to learn about runaway processes. You can’t experiment much or have the loop in manual for more than a few deadtimes with a true runaway process.