You are on page 1of 18

Real-time Optimization of a Gasoline Run-down Header Blending Operation

Paper Number 103f Shashi Mistry, Craig Mangan, Jim Eshpeter Suncor Energy Edmonton, Canada Sanjay Sharma Honeywell International Houston, Texas

Refiners around the world are continually seeking ways to maximize margins on gasoline production. Optimization of various unit operations and gasoline blending using online blending packages are commonly employed. However, an area of opportunity that is less commonly exploited is the optimization of gasoline run-down headers. The economic benefits of gasoline run-down header optimization are enormous, but there are many challenges. Run-down header optimization is challenging since many process units feed into the rundown header. Multiple control rooms, process operators and control systems are involved. This poses a significant challenge for a single application to optimize the entire system in real-time. Secondly, many of the process streams entering the run-down headers have multiple dispositions. Thirdly, the gasoline blending operation is highly non-linear. Lastly an on-line stream property measurement system that is sufficiently fast for on-line control and is able to provide a reliable property measurement over the entire blending range of components is a challenge. Suncor Energy at Edmonton Refinery has been active in real-time optimization of the refinery operation for the last several years. While a majority of process units are being optimized using Advanced Process Control (APC), gasoline blending operation was, until recently, optimized using offline LP tools. The gasoline blending operation at Suncor comprises Gasoline Blending operation and Gasoline Run-down Headers operation. An innovative project to optimize the gasoline run-down blending operation in real-time was recently completed and is the subject of this paper.

Suncor Energy Corporation is one of the largest independent energy companies in the world. It is the fifth largest North American energy company. It is an integrated energy company with traditional exploration and production and refining operations, in addition to Wind Power and Biofuels operations. Suncors second largest refinery is based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. This refinery processes 135,000 barrels per day (BPD) of the oil-sands based feedstock. Suncors Edmonton refinery is an integrated refinery and most of the process units in this refinery use Advanced Process Control (APC) for real-time optimization and control. Suncor management saw a need to minimize the quality giveaways in the gasoline product. A need was identified to optimize the gasoline blending operation. Suncors Edmonton refinery has standardized on Honeywells Profit Suite to meet their Advanced Process (APC) applications needs. Therefore, Honeywell was selected to work with Suncor project team for the gasoline blending optimization. The gasoline run-down header optimization is a part of this project and is the subject of this paper. The traditional approach for gasoline blending is to carry out the blending operation from run-down component tanks and the blend optimization is carried out as a part of this blending operation. There have been several documented approaches to optimize this operation and several commercial solutions are available. However, carrying out the real-time optimization on the run-down blending operation provides some key advantages over this traditional approach. The benefits of the real-time optimization on run-down headers are summarized below: a. It minimizes the number of blend stock component tanks; b. It provides a much faster response to dynamic changes in the refinery operations; c. It provides a greater flexibility to produce multiple grades of gasoline at the lowest cost; d. It minimizes product quality giveaways at the blend header level; e. And finally, it provides a greater opportunity to optimize the blending and the refinery operation. The project has resulted in over 5% increase in finished gasoline production while virtually eliminating the product quality giveaways. The project pay-back period is around two to three months. The controller was handed over to Operations in May 2012 and it has been in service since then with 100% uptime. Benefits from the project are substantiated by the Edmonton Refinery Vice President as follows:

By implementing a NIR based gasoline blending controller at the Suncor Energy Edmonton Refinery we have generated a number of benefits. True blending optimization is now confirmed through the capture of thousands of data points on tank properties, rather than a once per day capture. This technology has enabled the refinery to:

be proactive and blend gasoline in real-time with optimization be able to complete target changes seamlessly while minimizing quality risks achieve record maximum gasoline production volumes in 2012 manage gasoline blending to maximum profit or maximum volume, depending on the particular refinery constraints at that time

The benefits and flexibility achieved have exceeded our initial expectations identified when this work was first undertaken. John Prusakowski, VP Edmonton Refinery

The real-time gasoline run-down header blending optimization has some key challenges. First, the process and the geographic scope of the run-down header are large. It includes multiple process unit operators and multiple control rooms. Thus a control system infrastructure that provides communication to all associated process unit control system is necessary. Secondly, blending operation is non-linear. Therefore, a control system that can provide non-linear real-time optimization and control is necessary. This paper presents how these challenges were addressed. In addition, this paper also presents the benefits of implementing a real-time blending optimization on gasoline run-down headers.

The Suncor Edmonton refinery processes 135,000 BPD of oil-sands based feedstock. The refinery is a complex and integrated refinery. Gasoline run-down components produced from different process units are sent to either one of the two gasoline run-down headers (Header A or Header B) or to a storage tank or other process units. The property of each run-down component stream is managed by the individual unit operator. The run-down component stream flow rate into each header or to storage is set by planning. The run-down component from each process unit mixes with other gasoline run-down component at the process unit battery limit (Figure 1). The final blended stream is sent to its corresponding pre-blend tank. The material in the pre-blend tank is then trimmed to the final gasoline specifications. This final blending operation is referred to as trimming in this paper. The trimming operation is carried out to make the desired gasoline product (BOB, RUL, SUL etc.).

Figure 1 Blend Header Configuration

Figure 2, below, shows a simplified process flow diagram of the gasoline run-down headers.

Figure 2 Run-down Headers Simplified Process Flow Diagram

Gasoline run-down header operation is different from a typical process unit in many ways which force the APC design to be unique. Some of the unique characteristics of the rundown header operation are:
Blend-stock quality variations

Multiple process streams from various process units feed into the run-down headers and each streams quality varies dynamically. Hence, the run-down header streams blended properties vary as individual input stream quality changes.
Blend-stock Availability variation

On an average, roughly ten process streams from various process units enter into each run-down header. The amount of available run-down material changes dynamically. In addition, some of the run-down streams are available only intermittently. This changes the available degrees of freedom to meet the operating objectives dynamically. Secondly, because so many process units impact the operation of the run-down header, the run-down header operation is susceptible to upsets in any one of the process units. As an example, some of the butane streams that enter the run-down header can change from zero (0) to five (5) percent of the total flow to the header in a matter of minutes. This has a very large impact on the RVP of the header.
Multiple product quality specifications

The refinery produces gasoline products with various specifications. Some of these include: Blend stock for Oxygenate Blends (BOB), Regular Unleaded (RUL) and Super Unleaded (SUL). The specifications of these products not only change with season, but sometimes change to meet a short term local demand.
Multiple control systems

As stated earlier, on the average, roughly ten process streams enter in each run-down header. Therefore, multiple units control systems are involved. The real-time optimization applications have to be able to interact with multiple control systems.

No single owner of process

The run-down header operation involves multiple process units. Each process unit operator is responsible for his or her process unit and the process stream(s) that enter the run-down header. There is no single operator who has the visibility of the entire rundown header and thus can manage the run-down header as a whole. The refinery Planning and Economics department staff, the Planner, manages the run-down header on a daily basis or on an as needed basis wherever there is a significant change in the refinery operation. On a dynamic basis, there is no owner of the run-down header who has the visibility and the control of the run-down header property and volume.
Significant non-linear process

Gasoline blending is a highly non-linear operation. Both, the run-down component property and the flow changes, impact the blend headers quality in a non-linear fashion. The magnitude of the change can result in under or over specification of product quality that may lead to large economic penalties. Additionally, run-down stream availability changes, product demand variations, product quality variations, process disturbances and the non-linearties of the blending operation results in a process that is highly dynamic and difficult to control and optimize in realtime. However, the real-time control and optimization of this process has significant economic benefit. Given that the dynamic nature of process operation is a very important consideration in the design of a real-time control and optimization solution, the run-down header control and optimization solution favors a solution with the following features: Robust MPC solution that handles model mismatch well; A robust real-time blending model that predicts the blend properties well; Robust MPC solution that has the ability to read the process model in real-time.


Honeywells Profit Controller, Profit Controller Gain Mapper, Unified Real-time framework software development kit (URT/SDK) and non-linear blending model technologies available to Suncor are used in the project. These technologies are briefly described below.
Unified Real-time Software Development Kit (URT/SDK)

Honeywells Profit Suite is based on a Unified Real Time Framework (URT) that enables the Profit Suite applications to execute in real-time and interact with other Profit Suite applications and other non-Profit Suite applications in real-time. One of the components of the Profit Suite is the Software Development Kit (SDK) that allows the user to create real-time applications using higher level languages such as Visual Basic.Net, C++ or C#. These user-created applications can seamlessly interact with the other Profit Suite

applications and other non-Profit Suite applications in real-time. URT/SDK was used to build the non-linear blending model that executes in real-time and provides the updated model gains for the controller.
Profit Controller (RMPCT)

Profit Controller is Honeywells model based, robust multivariable predictive controller. The controller executes in real-time under URT framework. This controller has been well documented by many authors [Lu, 1997; Nath, 2001]. Some of the key features of Profit Controller that are relevant to this implementation include: a) Robustness the ability to handle significant model mismatch including the ability to handle gain sign reversal in real-time; b) Real-time gain updating; c) Ability to optimize based on MV and CV values.
Gain Mapper

The Gain Mapper is a Profit Suite component. It provides the capability to seamlessly update the gains in Profit Controller in real-time. It includes the capability to validate the gains generated by an external model prior to updating the gains. The Gain Mapper application extracts the model gains from the non-linear blend model application and populates them in the Profit Controller in real-time.
Blending Model

The gasoline blending operation is highly non-linear. So, a reliable and accurate gasoline blending model was necessary to generate the real-time model gains for Profit Controller. The blending model uses each input streams flow rate and various properties to calculate the blended property. The model calculates the following blended properties for each header: Research Octane Number (RON); Motor Octane Number (MON); Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP); ASTM Distillation 10% Point ASTM Distillation 50% Point; ASTM Distillation 90% Point; E200/E300 Benzene Total Aromatics

For the run-down gasoline blending at Suncor, the final quality standard is the laboratory results. Periodic laboratory samples are collected from each header and the NIR analyzer

results from the corresponding sample time are compared. In addition, the pre-blend pre tank samples are collected and validated with the laboratory results. The model results are compared against each headers NIR reading periodically. The blending model is of sufficient fidelity that no process feedback in real-time time was deemed necessary. In any case, since only process derivatives are required for gain updating, real-time bias update e or rigorous parameter fitting is not required. Figure 3 below compares the models road octane calculation results and Figure 4 compares the RVP calculation results against the NIR readings for one of the headers. headers

Road Octane Comparison

Unbiased* Calculation vs Measured
Calculated Unbiased Measured


Data Point * No dynamic bias is applied to calculation

Figure 3 - Model vs. NIR Octane Comparison

RVP Comparison
Unbiased* Calculation vs Measured
Calculated Unbiased Measured

RVP, Psi

* No dynamic bias is applied to calculation

Data Point

Figure 4 Model vs. NIR RVP Comparison

Goals and Requirements

From the planning departments point of view, the goals s of gasoline blending can be simply stated is to maximize profit at the refinery level. From gasoline production perspective, generally, enerally, this translates into producing maximum amount of onon specification gasoline at minimum cost. Thus, the goal is to produce on-specification gasoline, at minimum cost, from the run-down headers while maximizing header volume.

The gasoline run-down header optimization is a part of a larger gasoline blending optimization project. This paper focuses on the run-down header optimization part of the project. One of the basic requirements for such type of project, that is generally unusual for a typical APC project, is the integrated control system infrastructure. The three basic challenges for this type of application are control system infrastructure, measurement mea and modeling system and ownership scope of the applications. Suncor had envisioned the gasoline run-down down header optimization some time ago and had laid the foundation for this work. The run-down down header APC implementation phase of the project commenced comm in January 2012.

Multiple process units impact the gasoline run-down headers. Additionally many operators in different control rooms impact the operation of the gasoline run-down headers. So, a control system infrastructure that provides the ability for the Advanced Process Control (APC) applications to work with all of the process units involved is necessary. Suncor has standardized on Honeywells Experion PKS control system for the Edmonton refinery. Therefore, Experion PKSs DSA architecture was used to communicate with all of the process units involved in real-time. Single Profit Controller application was implemented to control both headers properties and volume rate. In addition, run-down stream spillover flow rates to storage tanks were also included in the controller. One NIR analyzer on each header provides the blended streams property to the Profit Controller. The controllers economic objective function was set to maximize profit. A non-linear blending model was implemented to calculate the model gains for the Profit Controller at the current operating point. A Gain Mapper application then validated these model gains and subsequently populated them in the Profit Controller. As a result of the project, the gasoline blending optimization workflow was revised. Prior to the project, the Refinery Planner provided daily targets to each operator for each run-down stream disposition. Although the Planner had the visibility of each gasoline run-down headers properties and volumetric flow rate in real-time, generally, new targets to each individual unit operators were sent only when a significant deviation from the plan were noticed. At the beginning of the project, it was decided that the Planner should be the owner of the gasoline blend header optimization. The individual operators had control on the availability of their units controller while the planner provided the control targets for these controllers and other variables in the APC applications. The Planner then has the flexibility to adjust the blending operation in real-time as the economic or a unit operating conditions changed. Figure 5 below shows the work flow after the project implementation.

Figure 5 - New Workflow

The Planner has the ability to adjust the product specification of each header, the volumetric flow rate from each header and the volumetric flow rate of each run-down stream into the header in real-time. The Planner generally provides these values in terms of high and low limits. As an example, the Planner generally specifies a high and a low limit for road octane (RDON) for each header. In addition, the Planner specifies an economic value of each stream entering into the header and a product value of each header flow rate. The APC application then seeks a feasible solution that maximizes profit, while honoring the constraints specified by the Planner.

The economic benefits from the gasoline run-down header blending optimization are derived from the following outcomes of the APC application:

a) By improving the control of the header properties and volumes (minimize quality giveaways); b) By increasing product value upgrade upgrade; c) By increasing flexibility lexibility to adjust blending operation quickly (Logistics); (Logistics) d) Operating constraints to be corrected at the plant level (Unit Operations). Operations) The ability to control each headers property and volumetric production rate provides greater flexibility to the refin refinery planning personnel to respond to changing conditions. As unit operating conditions or economic conditions change, the Planner is able to adjust the blending operation quickly to adjust or to take advantage of these changes. This flexibility provides him or her with the capability to execute and confirm the refinery wide optimization plan in real real-time. As seen in Figures 6, 7 and 8, , the Planner is able to adjust the operating targets in real real-time to increase profitability. Figures 6 and 7 provide an e example xample of one of the headers Road Octane (RDON) and RVP control before, during and after the commissioning time. As commissioning activities were completed, the controller was able to provide much tighter control on one of the headers properties (Octane (Octane, , RVP etc.) while meeting the volumetric requirements.

Header Octane Control

Header RDON Header RDON Hi Limit Header RDON Lo Limit RDON, Octane Number

Commissioning Activities

Data Point

Figure 6 Header Octane Control

Header RVP Control

Header RVP Header RVP Hi Limit Header RVP Lo Limit

RVP, Psi

Commissioning Activities

Data Point

Figure 7 Header RVP Control

The second benefit from the APC application is the ability to carry out product value upgrade. The APC application is configured to maximize the profit, which entails maximization of the use of low cost streams, and generally maximization of gasoline production uction (the application will not increase gasoline production if the marginal cost is higher than the marginal value of the product product.). In the case of the gasoline blending, this also results in increase in gasoline volume production (Figure 9).

Header Volume Control

Header Volume Header Volume Hi Limit Header Volume Lo Limit

Volume, BPM

Commissioning Activities

Data Point

Figure 8 Header Volume Control

The overall, normalized gasoline production has increased by 5% (after accounting for factors such as crude rate changes etc.) etc.). The refinery has been able to set a new record in gasoline production. This increase in gasoline production is due to increased usage of low cost blend components that otherwise would have been sent to storage. Because of piping infrastructure, once sent to storage, these components generally cannot be added back to the blend pool and are generally sold in the open market at a lower value than gasoline. gasoline Thus, APC application is able to help increase the marginal value of these components by blending them into the gasoline product.

Total Gasoline Volume Production

B Header A Header

With APC




Figure 9 Total Gasoline Volume Production

Another benefit of maximizing the usage of all gasoline blend components in the runrun down header is that it reduces the blend blend-stock stock tank inventory and provides maximum inventory of pre-blend blend gasoline. This pre pre-blend gasoline ine then can readily be used to make the desired final product.

Gasoline run-down blend header operation is very challenging and real-time time optimization of the run-down down header is, therefore, quite challenging as well. An innovative solution was s implemented at the Suncor Refinery in Edmonton to optimize gasoline blending operation on the gasoline run run-down down headers. The APC solution has enabled Suncor to maximize the product value upgrade, by upgrading low cost blend components into higher value gasoline asoline product. This has resulted in an increase of finished gasoline production by 5%. As a result, Suncor has set new records in gasoline production. production

We would like to thank the management of Suncor Energy and Honeywell for permission to publish this work. In addition, we thank Mr. Don Yeomans of Suncor Energy for his invaluable contribution this project.

1. Anonymous (2008), Advanced Process Control: Profit Controller Concepts Reference Guide. Profit Controller Documentation. 2. Anonymous (2008), Advanced Process Control: Gain Mapper for Profit Controller Users Guide. Profit Controller Documentation. 3. Lu, Z. J., John A. Escarcega, RMPCT: Robust MPC Technology Simplifies APC Paper presented at AiChe Spring Meeting (1997).

4. Nath, Ravi, Zak Alzein, Rogier Pouwer, Mario Lesieur, On-line Dynamic Optimization of an Ethylene Plant using Profit Optimizer, Paper presented at NPRA Computer Conference (1999). 5. Anonymous (2010-12), Gasoline Blending Technology Development for On-line Applications, IPCC Inc. 6. Anonymous (2012), Profit suite Product Documentation.

Table 1: Acronyms used in the paper NO. 1. ACRONYM APC DEFINITION Advanced Process Control. This is generally achieved through the use of multivariable predictive control technologies. Blend stock for Oxygenate Blending Barrels Per Minute Controlled Variable Linear Programming Motor Octane Number Multivariable Predictive Controller Manipulated Variable Near Infra-Red Analyzer Road Octane Number Research Octane Number Regular UnLeaded gasoline Reid Vapor Pressure Super UnLeaded Gasoline

2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14.