Optimizing Refineries with Model Predictive Control

One of the guys who has been around as long as I have is Lou Heavner, a Consultant in our Advanced Applied Technologies team. As an MIT graduate, he is one really sharp person, and also someone who can simplify and communicate complex ideas.

I asked Lou about what he’s been working on recently in the world of applying advanced process controls for process manufacturers. Lou’s been recently involved in a project in the European region where he consulted with a refiner to get DeltaV PredictPro working on a crude unit and to take advantage of its optimization capabilities.

During that project, it became clear to Lou that the term optimization conjures up a different vision for most people. He was confronted with matching the capabilities of the system to the expectations of the customer and needed to dive pretty deeply into how optimization works in the DeltaV software, just to explain and train the local refinery staff.

The crude unit is the first unit in a refinery and the fractionator is a great place to start applying APC technology. An optimizer can take advantage of the capabilities of PredictPro and the extra degrees of freedom in a typical crude unit to drive the process to maximum throughput and/or minimize the energy required (as fuel in the fired heaters.) It can also support an objective to maximize yield of the more valuable cuts (products). The system is working and delivering benefits, but Lou is doing further work to quantify the results and turn this skeptical refiner into a good reference site.

Applications like these have been developed for many industries and branded as SmartProcess Optimization application packages. Some of these applications for refineries include the Fractionator Optimizer and the Heater Optimizer packages.

As one who applies the advanced process control software on a regular basis, Lou’s feedback to the Emerson technology development teams has enhanced the software over a number of releases.

Lou is a regular presenter at the Emerson Exchange sharing his expertise with the Emerson customers who attend. This year he’ll be presenting a short course which explains how to implement optimization with DeltaV PredictPro and surveys several optimization techniques including non-linear searches for minima, load allocation, and LP (linear programming) solutions. These optimization techniques are a key and inseparable part of those who employ use model predictive control techniques.

Posted Thursday, March 23rd, 2006 under Downstream Hydrocarbons.


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