State-based Control Case Study at AFPM Summit

by | Oct 15, 2019 | Services, Consulting & Training

Jim Cahill

Jim Cahill

Chief Blogger, Social Marketing Leader

At the 2019 AFPM Operations & Technology Summit, Emerson’s Dustin Beebe teamed with a professional with a global chemical producer. Their presentation was case study was on applying state-based control on one of their production processes.

Procedural automation addresses the various states in which a continuous process resides. Some examples include startup, upset recovery, planned shutdown, and emergency shutdown.

Procedure automation includes operational procedures and the automation of aspects of these operational procedures, typically at a unit operation scope. The operational procedure includes administrative control, a formal sequence of instructions executed by the process operators. This sequence of instructions is task oriented and helps to reduce the likelihood of human error.

Here’s an example of how the informational flow for an operational procedure when incorporated into procedure automation.

Moving from manual to procedure automation

Incorporating procedure automation begins with assessing operations. The goal is to improve situational awareness, unify operational understanding, capture the knowledge of experienced operations staff, enforce best practices, reduce human error, and improve overall operational performance.

The development process has 4 phases—define & capture, interpret & design, implement & test, operate & audit. Requirements are formalized through the collection of information from a cross-functional team of subject matter experts (SMEs). Areas of expertise for these SMEs include Operations, Process, Technology, Safety, and plant equipment.

Opportunities are identified based on criteria such as frequency of operator interventions, impact on safety, and impact on performance. Here’s an example justification matrix:

Procedure automation justification matrix

For this chemical producer, state-based implementations we developed for the compression, reaction, vaporization, and distillation units. The states included inputs, transition functions, next states, output functions, and outputs.

For this project, 26 unit-operations were assessed and five selected for implementation. These five had a high degree of interaction and a large I/O scope of impact.

The project had observable value created with faster process startups that were more predictable and repeatable. These startups helped increase annual capacity by 1.5% and reduce the loading on the operations staff through fewer interventions.

Beyond increased capacity and lower risk startups, this chemical producer can more easily incorporate state-based alarm management to further clarify what is happening in the process.

The detailed review of current operational practices also helped unify the understanding of process operations across functional organization and help the cross-functional team assess the “as-written” interpretation of these operational practices.

Visit the Control & Operator Performance section on for more these technologies and solutions to improve operational performance.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.

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