Systematic controllability analysis for chemical processes



Modern chemical industrial processes are becoming more and more integrated and consist of multiple interconnected nonlinear process units. These strong interactions profoundly complicate a system's inherent properties and further alter the plant-wide process dynamics. This may lead to a poor control performance and cause plant-wide operability problems. To ensure entire processes run robustly and safely, with considerable profitability, it is crucial to recognize the inherent characteristics that can jeopardize controllability and process behavior at the early design stage. With a focus on inherently safer designs, from a plant-wide perspective, a systematic method for chemical processes controllability analysis is addressed in this study. In the proposed framework, based on open-loop stability/instability and minimum/nonminimum-phase behavior, the entire operating zone of the process can be categorized into distinct subregions with different inherent properties. Variations in the inherent characteristics of a plant-wide process with the operation and design conditions, over the feasible operation region, can be probed and analyzed. An attempt of this framework is made to illustrate how to clarify the roots of the poor controllability that arise in the design and operation of a large scale chemical process, and the results can provide guidance for both deciding the optimal operation conditions and selecting the most suitable control structure. Singularity theory is also applied in the framework to improve the computational efficiency. The framework is illustrated with two case studies. One involves a reactor-external heat exchanger network and the other a more complex plant-wide process, comprising a reactor, an extractor, and a distillation column. © 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 58: 3096–3109, 2012