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20th European Symposium on Computer Aided Process Engineering ESCAPE20 S. Pierucci and G.

. Buzzi Ferraris (Editors) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Development of An Operator Training System for Gas Sweetening Plant


Ahmad A.L.a, Low E.M., Abd. Shukor S.R.
a

School of Chemical Engineering, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 14300 Nibong Tebal, Penang, Malaysia, chlatif@eng.usm.my

Abstract
A process simulator system, also referred as an Operator Training System (OTS), is widely accepted in process industry as an enabling technology for employee competency and proficiency training and enhancement. The intangible benefits reaped from its application are applauded all across the industries. Correct and efficient process operation is getting more important in chemical industry as safety requirement and environmental specifications are becoming more stringent. OTS is deemed as the most effective application to develop the highest skill levels and proficiency of operators, as there is no other way to practice emergency responses or procedures for unit recovery or shutdown. This paper presents the firsthand experience of developing of a process simulator system, whereby both steady state and dynamic simulations have been carried out, and using commercial simulation packages. Aspen HYSYS is used for the steady state simulation; meanwhile a comprehensive dynamic simulation for a gas adsorption column has been developed and implemented in a commercial simulator package Simpack. An industrial scale of gas sweetening process using amine is used as case study in this project. The application focuses on the dynamic of separation process and its control strategy. The dynamic simulation model developed is robust to cover the start-up, normal operating and shutdown conditions. Keywords: Dynamic simulation, Simpack, Operator training system

1. Introduction
Application of dynamic simulation as training simulator is hardly a new concept. Adoption of training simulators has been widely practiced in industries where capital investment is high, processes with high complexities and enormous hazardous consequences in case of failure. Industries of this type are not limited to chemical processes, but are also apparent in aviation, shipping, power and energy industry, medical and nuclear system (Cameron et al., 2002, Yang et al., 2001, Murugappan, 2009, Merritt, 2006, Seccombe, 2008). An operator training simulator (OTS) is an example of high fidelity simulation models application. These models are mathematical representations of actual plants that accurately mimic the process conditions on the plant using chemical engineering theory (Jago, 2008). Based on a rigorous, physical, first principle equations (Cox et al., 2006), they capture the hydraulic, thermodynamics, phase and reactive behaviours of the process. The use of such high fidelity model within operation has many important applications with significant implications. The consistent improvement in the area of dynamic process simulation and the steadily increasing computational power gave rise to the increasing use of operator training simulators in the chemical and petrochemical industry in recent years (Klatt and Marquardt, 2009).

A.L.Ahmad et al.

2. Motivations Behind Application of Operator Training Simulator


Safety First. This tagline is commonly found in almost any working facilities throughout the world. This reflected how highly important safety is being stressed. In fact, process safety, health and environmental (SHE) is at the heart of all responsible process engineering (Preston et al., 1996). A numbers of safety policies and standardizations are in place to govern the compliance of safety practice in workplace. As an example, Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series, OHSAS is an international management system and standardization that is widely adopted in Malaysia to enhance the safety practice in workplace. It is well recognized and accepted that safety issue is the most important aspect of industry process operations (Ming et al., 2003). Regardless of how comprehensive and extensive the safety guidelines provided, essentially it is the competency of the operator that really matters to guarantee safety in a workplace. Thus, employee continually seeks way to improve and increase the competency and efficiency of its workforce. Yang et al (2001) reported a study result of accident causes in the hydrocarbon processing industry over a span of 30 years. 28% of the 170 largest property-damage losses in the study are due to operational error or process upsets (Yang et al., 2001). In another separate survey conducted by a consortium led by Honeywell around the world including UK, USA, Canada, Europe and Japan, about 40% of abnormal operations were caused by human errors (Sebzalli et al., 2000). These statistical figures imply that operators lack of skills and/or careless operations are main causes of accidents in chemical industries (Goh et al., 1998). Thus, properly trained operators are critical to ensure plant safety and profitability. Additional measures need to be taken to expose operating staff to abnormal process operations, such as process upsets and emergency operating procedures. It is believed that OTS is the most suitable and ideal tool to address this matter. Training is directed at identifying and closing the gap between required knowledge and skills and the measured knowledge and skills of individual operators (Schreiber et al., 1992, Spanel et al., 2005), (Ming et al., 2003, Cameron et al., 2002, Nishitani, 1996, Meloni et al., 2003). In fact, there are governmental legislations in some countries for compulsory emergency operations training using realistic simulations (Podmore et al., 2008, Xu, 2007, Cheltout et al., 2007). Government scrutiny has increased and regulatory demands to certify that plants can be safely operated (Dissinger, 2008). A good process simulator makes dynamic simulation a powerful tool throughout the complete life cycle of a plant; starting from pre-engineering and commissioning planning to operator training and troubleshooting. This contributes to operational readiness. Start-up time is to be reduced and maximum efficiency at start-up is to be achieved (Suksupha et al., 1993, Elston and Potter, 1989, Dawson et al., 2006). Issues that typically cause delays in start up or slow start ups due to unplanned incidents are addressed in achieving operational readiness. Study carried out by ARC Advisory Group for Honeywell identified the key component as operational personnel readiness that can be achieved through the use on an operator training simulator. The design of the operator process interface is also critical, ensuring best practices are incorporated into the automation (Tomschi et al., 2007). Training, or people readiness, is perhaps the most important aspect of the success of operational readiness. An untrained operator is not competent to run the plant to the optimum degree of efficiency. Taking an analogy to autopilot, advanced process control (APC) typically removes the reactive actions required by a process operator to allow more time to be spent on optimizing production. However, from time to time, operators need to be able to take control of the process to manage an upset. This gap can be filled

Development of An Operator Training Simulator for Gas Sweetening Plant by an OTS, analogous to a flight simulator, it is proved to be extremely valuable, allowing the operator to continually develop skills, make mistakes and learn in a safe simulated environment (ARC, 2009, Merritt, 2006, Murugappan, 2009). For ensuring the effectiveness of an OTS, its backbone, the dynamic models need to be rigorous and robust enough to cover all the operations. These high fidelity models need to represent key operating scenarios such as start up, shutdown, normal operations and also abnormal situations, such as equipment failure (Mohammed et al., 2005, Muravyev and Berutti, 2007). This feature is inarguably the most important and vital element for a good and reliable simulator. Human capital is another huge motivational behind the utilization of OTS. With the dwindling numbers of chemical engineering graduates and ageing population, workforce training becomes vital (Jago, 2008, Dissinger, 2008, Sims and Early, 2007). Recent years, the rapid surge in oil and gas sector has created a huge demand for human capital. The construction of major new facilities and assets in regions of the world like oil platforms off the coast of Africa, new chemical plants and refineries in the Middle East and central and eastern Asia has created a surge in demand for technically trained personnel (Dissinger, 2008). Some major companies opt to lure international labour force rather than developing their available manpower. Malaysia is not spared of the adverse effect from this phenomenon. Many experienced, semi-skilled and skilled local workforce are targeted by these foreign companies where lucrative employment packages are being offered. Spinning off from there, companies are looking into effective training to address knowledge or skills gaps of new recruits of all levels that is via a reliable OTS.

3. Operator Training Simulator for Gas Sweetening Process


Gas sweetening process or acid gas treating using amine is a common process adopted in natural gas treatment plant and oil refineries. The two major gas meant to be removed are hydrogen sulphide (H2S) and carbon dioxide (CO2) from process gas streams. Our study case is an industrial scale plant of natural gas treatment process using aqueous solution of 2,2'-hydroxyaminoethylether or diglycolamine (DGA). The scope of this work involves high pressure and low pressure gas contactor and regeneration systems as well as the sweet gas compression system as shown in Figure 1, surrounded by the dotted red line.

Figure 1 : Scope of study case of the gas sweetening process

A.L.Ahmad et al. The parameters used in this simulation work are as listed in Table 1.
Table 1 : Process parameters for the case study Process Parameters Capacity (million standard cubic feet of sour gas treated per day) Sour gas specifications : %volume of H2S %volume of CO2 Sweet gas specifications: ppm of H2S ppm of CO2 %weight of DGA solution used High Pressure System 440 2.7 3.0 <4 <200 50 Low Pressure System 320 6.4 6.3 <4 <200 50

3.1. Steady state simulation Steady state simulation was done using Aspen HYSYS, where the special property package; Amines Property Package was used. The thermodynamic model for aqueous amine solutions chosen for this simulation was Li-Mather, together with non-ideal vapour phase model. Steady state simulation was done by referring the process flow diagrams (PFDs) of the plant. Validation of the model was done by comparing the difference of simulation data with design data (from the PFDs), with the accepted error of 5%. Two important assumptions made in steady-state simulation were the efficiency of contactor column is 80%, while the regeneration column is of 80% efficiency. 3.2. Dynamic simulation Dynamic simulation was carried out using Simpack. Models were built in reference to the piping and instrumentation diagram (P&IDs). Basic control loops and selected critical manual valves were also included in the models. At the initial stage, the dynamic models were developed as a few sub-sections, as an independent unit each to enable easier model tuning. The stable models were integrated prior to validation. Validation of the integrated dynamic models was once again done using the similar method used during steady state simulation. 3.3. Feature of the operator training simulator This OTS is used for training in both the process behaviour of the plant as well as the use of distributed control system (DCS) to control the plant. As actual hardware of a DCS is very costly, a very good emulation of DCS graphics and control outlook was adopted. Figure 2 shows the analogy of OTS to real plant. The plant dynamic model and the actual process plant were analogous. The instructor station could be considered an analogy to the control system in real plant, where it invokes responses from operator through the operator control console. The operator console or DCS of actual plant is analogous to the emulated operator consoles. Besides training for plant start-up, shutdown and normal operation, OTS training also covers emergency situation handling. Through instructor station, various possible condition could be initiated. A few examples were the cold start up, hot start up, emergency shutdown and malfunctions such as pump tripping.

Development of An Operator Training Simulator for Gas Sweetening Plant

Figure 2: Analogy of operator training simulator to a real plant

Training would be more meaningful and effective if evaluation could be carried out. Hence, OTS does include evaluation function for tracking of operating procedures and actions in order to measure a trainees performance. Instructor could define the acceptable operating ranges and specified a time frame for process recovery as the basis for the evaluation.

4. Future work and conclusion


Development of an OTS is considerably meticulous task, yet its application brings various positive impacts in industry. The endless effort to achieve operational efficiencies improvement and plant safety will place modelling and simulation at an utmost important position in process engineering. However, OTS utilization should not be limited to industry but should be equally exploited in academic institution. OTS could be an effective pedagogy tool where the interrelationships among a multitude of engineering concepts such as mass and energy balance, heat transfer, separation, thermodynamic could be demonstrated. OTS could also enhance the understanding of students in control engineering. At the time of the writing, there is no known OTS utilization in any academic institute in Malaysia. OTS remains largely as industrial application. Thus, it is the intention of the authors to introduce OTS to their institute. It is not longer considered only as an added benefit to be to able to model and thereby predict, modify and adapt proactively to changing conditions, but this competitive advantage is actually a hallmark attribute in pursuit of operational excellence of sustainability.

5. Acknowledgements
The authors gratefully acknowledge Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) Malaysia for the financial support provided through Technofund, and also Scienscim Sdn. Bhd., their industrial collaborator for the technical assistance in this work. Low E.M. thanks Universiti Sains Malaysia for the financial support received for her graduate studies via Vice Chancellors Award and USM-RU-PGRS.

A.L.Ahmad et al.

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