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Drum level control process

(cascade plus feedforward control)

Ahmed shams El-Din Ahmed

Operating engineer at Talkha power station

Come in contact with Main control loop in boiler
control .
Study of drum level control process overall
theoretically and practically .
Search for ways to improve this loop
Helping engineers in Talkha power plant e.g.
operating engineers and maintenance ones.
Searching in methods to improve control loop

Problem description
Boilers are plants use to generate steam at high temperature
and pressure to turn turbine blades attached to generator to
produce electricity.
HRSG is special type of boiler that use combustion gases from
gas turbine station to heat water and produce steam.
Any boiler contain drum, superheat, evaporator coils, feeding
pumps, control valves, blowdown .
There are many control loops that exist in boiler such as level
control of drum, temperature and pressure control of steam
Level control of drum is the most important control loop in
boiler operation as main function of boiler to take raw water
and generate superheat steam.

The boiler drum is where water and steam are separated.

Controlling its level is critical . if the level becomes too low, the
boiler can run dry resulting in mechanical damage of the drum
and boiler piping. If the level becomes too high, water can be
carried over into the steam pipework, possibly damaging
downstream equipment.
The design of the boiler drum level control strategy is normally
described as single-element, two-element, or three-element
control. Our main discussion is two element and three element.
Single-element drum level control can work well only if the
residence time of the drum is very large to accommodate the
large deviations, but this is seldom the case especially in the
power industry. For this reason, the control strategy is normally
expanded to also include feedwater and steam flow.

The three transmitters, or variables, are

the three elements referred to in the
name of the control strategy.
The feedwater flow setpoint is set
automatically by the steam flow signal
to keep the feedwater supply in
balance with the steam demand; this is
the feedforward component of the
control strategy.
The drum level controller trims the
feedwater flow setpoint to compensate
for errors in the flow measurements or
any other unmeasured load
disturbances (e.g. blowdown) that may
effect the drum level; this
is the cascade component of the
control strategy. The summing function is
used to combine these two

Cascade control advantages

Better control of the primary variable

Primary variable less affected by disturbances
Faster recovery from disturbances
Increase the natural frequency of the system
Reduce the effective magnitude of a time-lag
Improve dynamic performance
Provide limits on the secondary variable

Cascade control is most advantageous on applications where the

secondary closed loop can include the major disturbance and second order
lag and the major lag is included in only the primary loop. The secondary
loop should be established where the major disturbance occurs. It is also
important that the secondary variable respond to the disturbance. If the
slave loop is controlling flow and the disturbance is in the heat content of
the fluid, obviously the flow controller will not correct for this disturbance.

Feedforward and feedback control

Many process control loops are affected by large disturbances.

Feedback control can act only on the result of a disturbance, which
means feedback control cannot do anything until the process
variable has been affected by the disturbance.
In drum level loop if steam outlet flow increase (disturbance-occur)
the drum level increase as result there is error and feedback loop
begin to open water feed valve to correct level. This takes time and
level disturbance(changes ) occur.
In the other side the feedforward controller correct this level
disturbances before it occur or make it very small.
In contrast to feedback control, feedforward control acts the moment
a disturbance occurs, without having to wait for a deviation in
process variable. This enables a feedforward controller to quickly and
directly cancel out the effect of a disturbance. To do this, a
feedforward controller produces its control action based on a
measurement of the disturbance.

Why use of cascade and feedforward ?

Cascade controller is used in our loop to control another
secondary variable (flow of feedwater to drumfrequency of change is fast) that has an impact on
primary variable which is the level of the drum, it is used
here cause feedwater change in common feeding
boiler as pumps is common and changes can occur.
Feedforward controller is used to accommodate for
steam out flow variations that also affect level of drum,
add steam out to error of level to correct it by feedwater
flow .we use both for drum level as we have three
variables level ,steam flow(load changes), feedwater
flow(way to control loop).
Three element control must used for high output steam
generation boilers.

Why single loop controller is not good

Single element drum level cant be used for some reasons:
Drum level is affected by changes in feedwater and steam flow rate. But because
of the very slow response of the feedback control loop, changes in feed flow or
steam flow can cause very large deviations in boiler drum level. Single-element
drum level control can work well only if the residence time of the drum is very
large to accommodate the large deviations, but this is seldom the case
especially in the power industry. For this reason, the control strategy is normally
expanded to also include feedwater and steam flow.

Cascade PI controller process vs. single


Cascade control is mainly used to achieve fast rejection of

disturbance before it propagates to the other parts of the plant.
The simplest cascade control system involves two control loops
(inner and outer)
Controller C1 in the outer loop is the primary controller that
regulates the primary controlled variable y1 by setting the setpoint of the inner loop. Controller C2 in the inner loop is the
secondary controller that rejects disturbanced2 locally before it
propagates to P1. For a cascade control system to function
properly, the inner loop must respond much faster than the outer

Single loop

Two element control of tank level

This is a simulation of control of tank level using two element (level , input
flow) , this is a simple model of the complete system .
Two element reduce the effects of input flow changes due to some
factors like pressure changes, pipe leakage, valve flow changes and
affect the level minimally . We use two cascaded pid controllers inner
and outer, the inner for flow and outer for level.
I use Matlab for simulation process

Block diagram
cascade controller

Cascade control response

Single loop response

From the two examples and plots we can conclude
that the cascade control system performs much
better in rejecting disturbance d2 while the setpoint tracking performances are almost identical.
This figures result from disturbance as input and
record its effects on systems , the cascade control
show much better performance against
disturbance rejection and this is our goal to avoid
any disturbance occur in inner loop as possible.
Input disturbance can be caused in level control
system as result of pressure change ,result in flow
change although valve open ratio is fixed.

Goals of search
Model the boiler drum level on Matlab with 3
element control (cascade plus feedforward) on
Improve the characteristic and response of the
controller using fuzzy logic in tuning or using fuzzy
controllers it self instead of pid controllers.
There are some researches in IEEE like
Simulation of control of water level in boiler drum
June 2012
Boiler drum level controlled by fuzzy self-adapting
Nov. 2009

Advanced process control 2010 Cecil L. Smith