Real-time Process Optimization

Companies operating in the refining, petrochemical, and chemical industries are focused on reducing the amount of CO2 they release into the atmosphere. To meet these stringent requirements, real-time process optimization is more frequently becoming a requirement in today’s environment.

Engineering technology and industry 4.0 smart factory concept
Dynamic real time optimization

Real-time Process Unit Optimization is Needed to Meet Decarbonization Goals

RT-OP is a dynamic, real-time optimization solution that optimizes assets e.g. LNG plants, entire plants e.g. olefins, or circuits within a refinery/petrochemical/chemical plant, in minutes to ensure a continuous response to market signals and disturbances, such as product price changes, feed changes. KBC’s real-time optimization solution combines Petro-SIM® and Advanced Control and Estimation (PACE) APC to form a tightly integrated system to optimize plants 24/7.


Industrial technology concept 4.0

One Model, Many Uses

It's long been a dream of the refining, petrochemical, and chemical industries to have one model that could be used for many purposes (e.g. design, operation, training, and optimization). The problem was each of these tasks was performed by a different type of model in a different software package. This elusive dream was not realized – until now.

While not new, real-time optimization has been around for over forty years, it is under-utilized in the hydrocarbon industry. Why is this? Traditional solutions were hard to implement and, more importantly, difficult to sustain over the long term. It required specialists, who were often a scarce resource, to develop and maintain these systems. The first-principle models used for these systems were not the same ones the plant engineers used to do their other everyday tasks.

RT-OP uses the same modeling software engineers use every day to do things such as monitor the plant, keep the LP up to date and do design studies. The same engineers that do these tasks are the same ones that maintain the real-time optimization system – no more specialists in scarce supply.

Why Real-time Optimization

Faster Control Actions

Changes in independent variables are captured by dynamic coordination every few minutes, enabling faster optimal control actions and greater benefits, yielding higher unit margins and CO2 reductions.

Maximize Profit

The Dynamic Real-Time Optimizer (RT-OP) covers an entire asset or multiple process units, where the plant can be divided into modules ensuring maximum profit and minimum CO2 emissions.

Easily Maintained

The Dynamic Real-Time Optimizer (RT-OP) is achieved through the unique combination of model predictive controller (PACE) and a rigorous process simulation package (Petro-SIM). Both are easily maintained by the plant staff.

Virtual Analyzer

Inference calculations (flash, freeze, 95% PT), furnace severity, catalyst degradation, catalyst cycle rate, and distillation column tray loading, can be generated by Petro-SIM and fed into the PACE controller as additional targets and constraints.

Multiple Unit Challenge
Maintenance Challenge
Speed of Execution Challenge
Disturbance Challenge
single and multiple process units

Traditional solutions are not suitable for scenarios where multiple process units need to be optimized together in a coordinated fashion. PACE is capable of high-speed processing and controlling large-scale applications across multiple processes. With PACE as the platform, RT-OP can do multi-unit optimization.

Maintenance system performance

Multiple systems need to be maintained individually. “Traditional” optimization systems need multiple experts. Lack of efficient maintenance negatively impacts system performance and availability. RT-OP utilizes Petro-SIM for offline purposes and PACE which is used as an APC platform to maintain the system performance, despite plant changes. This makes it easy to maintain real-time optimization systems, without changing engineers’ routine maintenance workload.

RTOP execution points

Customers need to respond quickly to various disturbances to achieve optimal operation. Adapting to reflect these frequent changes is not so easy task. RT-OP calculates gains and optimal operation points separately. Optimal operation points are updated every 5 - 10 minutes. Gains (which shows process characteristics) are updated every 2 hours.

Refineries, Petrochemical, and Chemical plants face many disturbances on a daily, hourly, and even minute-by-minute basis.  Some of these disturbances come from:

  • Environmental disturbances – Weather changes, feedstock variation, feedstock availability.
  • Economic disturbances – Supply sources, demand fluctuations, price fluctuations, industry competition.
  • Political disturbances – Regulatory compliance (e.g. CO2), legislative restrictions.
  • Internal disturbances – Operational hazards, equipment availability, corporate strategy.