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exceeds the specification.

However, it is undesirable to reduce C4 amount to

lower than the specification as this would be product specification giveaway at the
expense of additional utilities. The operating objective is to minimize the
reboiling duty, while achieving the maximum RVP specification at all times.

The task at hand is to develop a relationship between reboiling duty and C4% in
the debutanizer bottom product so that C4% can be controlled by adjusting the
reboiling duty. However, other operating parameters also affect the reboiling duty,
which include feed conditions (rate and composition), feed preheating (feed
temperature), and tower conditions (overhead temperature and pressure). If a
correlation of reboiling duty against the above influencing parameters could be
generated, reboiling duty can be adjusted according to any of the changes in the
related parameters and thus avoid the need for trial and error.

There are a couple of ways to develop such correlations. The simplest way
is the use of a data historian. This method can be applied if three conditions are
met: (i) The related parameters are measured and data available in the historian.
(ii) The measured data must reflect the operation at the time the butane content
was measured. (iii) The historian data cover all possible operating scenarios. After
all, online data are the true representation of real simulation!

Development of a correlation using the historian data can be conducted

readily in a spreadsheet using regression techniques. After gathering the data from
the historian, multiple variable regression can be applied to develop such a
correlation. The overall correlation coefficient must be higher than 85% for
sufficient regression fidelity.

The second option is to use the step test method usually for developing
parametric relations for control systems. By making a small step change to the
manipulatable (independent) variable (for example, feed rate), a response from the
control variable (dependent variable; reboiling duty in this case) can be recorded
after reaching the steadystate condition. This response can be called an energy
response. Finally, the regression method is applied to derive the correlation of
reboiling duty against all related variables.

However, in many cases, the conditions above for using a data historian
are difficult to satisfy. It could be also labor intensive and inconvenient in
operation to adopt the step test method. Thus, the most common method is to use
the simulation method for developing relationship correlations. To do this, a
simulation model for the tower can be developed readily based on the feed
conditions (rate and compositions) and tower conditions (temperature, pressure,
theoretical trays) with product specifications (C4% in the bottom and C5% in the
overhead) established as set points in simulation. Operating parameters such as
reflux rate and reboiling duty can be adjusted to meet product specifications. The
simulation model is verified and revised against high-quality performance test

To evaluate the effect of individual parameters, simulation cases can be

developed by prespecifying the values for independent variables of interest; the
energy response (reboiling duty) will be recorded automatically. For example, to
evaluate the effect of feed preheating, the UA value of the feed preheating
exchanger is varied with prespecified values. During simulation runs, the feed
temperature before the tower will change according to the UA values, which cause
the reboiling duty to vary automatically in the simulation. A set of four curves for
such one-to-one relationships can be obtained as shownin Figure 4.3a–d . Brief
explanations are given for each figure.

Reducing reflux drum pressure will reduce reboiling duty with the trend as
shown in Figure 4.3a. C4% in the bottom is the specification that the gasoline
product must meet. However, too low C4% is not necessary because it does not
generate commercial benefit for the cost of extra reboiling duty due to the steeper
part of the curve (Figure 4.3b). This product specification giveaway operation
must be avoided by all means. C5% in overhead product (Figure 4.3c) is the
indication of gasoline blending component lost in LPG, which should be avoided
as well. Feed preheat also reduces reboiling duty but raises condensing duty
(Figure 4.3d).

One must be aware of the capacity limit at the existing condenser when
increasing feed preheating, which requires extra condensing. On the other hand,
when the feed composition changes such as butane concentration, the reboiling
duty is affected for the separation of C4 from the C5þ materials. There is no
control for the feed composition for the debutanizer operation because the feed
composition is the consequence of different raw feeds processed in the
hydrocracking unit and the processing severity. For the other four parameters
above, operators can make changes to reflux drum pressure, C4% in the bottom
product, C5% in the overhead product, and feed preheating. Optimizing these
parameters could give around 5% reduction in reboiling duty than operated based
on experience only, which is very significant. Reboiling and condensing duty can
be described based on the relationship with individual parameters as shown in
Figure 4.3a–d. If assuming a polynomial form of correlations with order of 3 is
used, we have

Ri = a + bxi + cx2i + dx3i ; xi = (C4% in bottom; C5% in ovhd; preheat; drum P)

where xi is one of the four operating parameters, and equation (4.1) describes the

relationship of reboiling duty (Ri) and xi. The incremental effect (DRi) from
individual parameter (Dxi) can be determined as

∆Ri = Ri,new - Ri;base = a+b(xi;new - xi;base) + c(xi;new - xi;base)2 + d(xi;new - xi;base)3


If there are no interactions among these four operating parameters, the total effect
of changes in these parameters on reboiling duty would be the simple summation
of individual effects:

∆R = Rnew - Rbase = ∑4𝑖=1 ∆Ri: (4.3)

However, in many cases, there could be strong interactions among operating

parameters. In this case, two or more parameters could appear together in one
term and the bilinear (x1 x2) is the simplest form of interaction. To develop a
relationship of parameters with interactions, several parameters need to vary at the
same time in plant test or simulation, and the effect on reboiling duty can be seen
as the statistically significant result of the interaction parameters. A set of data
with changes to the operating parameters and the energy response can be obtained,
and regression is subsequently applied to derive correlation involving interactions.

When dealing with correlations involving multiple variables, economic

sensitivity analysis is essential to determine the most influential parameters. For
example, feed preheat and C4% in the bottom are very sensitive to reboiling duty
more than other operating parameters for the debutanizer. Getting the most
sensitive parameters right in operation can get the greatest economic and technical

The correlation developed can be implemented into the control system so

that reboiling duty can be controlled automatically to achieve the minimum at all
times. On the other hand, the correlation can be used as a supervisorial tool.
Whenever a variation is expected, adjustments to operating parameters need to be
made to optimize the reboiling duty. This reboiling duty is the minimum with all
things considered and it is the target for the conditions at hand. This target and
dollar value for closing the gap must be communicated with board operators in
each shift so that actions will be taken for achieving targets, while dollar value
saved could give operators a sense of pride as a recognition of their actions.


Operation variability is a major cause of operation inefficiency. In general, there

are two kinds of variability, which can be observed in reality, namely, inconsistent
operation and consistent but nonoptimal operation. Figure 4.4 presents the
operating data of a stripping steam rate in the main fractionator in a hydrocracking
unit. In Figure 4.4a, the stripping steam rates appear to be randomly scattered
showing an example of inconsistent operation. This is usually caused by either
poor control strategy or different operating policy used by operators for running
the tower. In contrast, Figure 4.4b shows a consistent operation but nonoptimal. In
this case, a consistent operating strategy was adopted, but it was far away from the
target for adjusting reboiling duty against column feed rate. The target operation
represents the minimum reboiling duty to achieve product specification.
The variability of any operating parameter occurs due to various reasons. The
question is how to identify operation variability and the economic value of
minimizing variability. Variability assessment starts with a simple statistical
analysis of operating data. For example, the operating data for C5%in the
debutanizer column overhead product under normal conditions can be extracted
from the historian as shown in Figure 4.5a with specification limit provided. To
understand the variability, data in Figure 4.5a are converted to a normal
distribution curve, which represents frequency of observations as shown in Figure
4.5b. In many cases, the operating data mimic the normal distributions. Two
parameters describe the normal distribution, namely, mean or average (m) and
variance or variability (s). s defines the shape of normal distribution. The larger
(smaller) the s value, the fatter (thinner) the curve. m and s can be calculated via

µ = ∑x/N, (4.4)

σ= (4.5)

where x is the value of the key indicator obtained from the historian, while N is
the number of sample data points for the key indicator.

Referring to the example discussed in White (2012) as shown in Figure

4.6a, there are two shortcomings in the operation performance. The first one is the
large variability, while the second is its being too conservative in reaching the
specification limit. If the operation or control strategy improves, the variability
could be minimized to achieve more consistent operation (Figure 4.6b) but still far
away from the limit. In general, a limit usually means a physical limit such as
product purity specification, maximum temperature or pressure, maximum valve
opening, maximum vapor loading in a separation column, maximum space
velocity in a reactor, and so on. The operation can be improved further (Figure
4.6c) by moving the average closer to the limit by adopting a better control
strategy. Time series data in Figure 4.6 can be converted to normal distribution
curves as shown in Figure 4.7.
If the economic value for the key indicator is known as Ci for the numerical value
(xi) of the key indicator of interest, the economic value (Vi) for xi at frequency
(fi) of observations can be calculated via

Vi = Ci . xi . f i: (4.6)

For example, C5% in the debutanizer overhead product represents the high value
component C5 lost in LPG. The key indicator could be defined as the difference of
actual C5% in LPG and C5 specification. If LPG produced from the column is
1000 bpd with C5% in LPG at 1% higher than the specification or xi¼1% with
frequency of occurrence as fi¼30%, and C5 is valued at $75/barrel, the economic
value to avoid this occurrence is:

Vi = Ci . xi . f i = $75/bbl x 1% x 1000 bpd x 30% + 225 $/day:

Similarly for other occurrences when C5%in LPG could be lower or higher than
1%, the economic values can be calculated accordingly.

In this way, the normal distribution curve can be converted to economic

curve as shown in Figure 4.8. The conversion is calculated to economic

With the statistics-based economic evaluation method mentioned

previously, improved operation can be quantified with economic values based on
statistical distribution of operating data. The current operation with large variance
(Figure 4.9a) is improved by more consistent operation and better control strategy
to reduce variability (Figure 4.9b), while optimized operation (Figure 4.9c)
utilizes the potential capability available in the process and equipment, and pushes
the economic value even higher.

The concept of KEI and targets can be readily implemented into an energy
dashboard, which can quickly show the performance gaps between current and
targets on the computer screen. The level of a gap indicates the severity of
deviations and forms the basis to assign a “traffic light” for each KEI—that is, a
green light implying the current performance is acceptable as it is within the target
range; a yellow light, a warning sign indicating that a gap occurs and requires
attention; or a red light, an alarm sign urging for taking action at the earliest time
possible. An example tool of monitoring key indicators is Honeywell’s Energy
Dashboard (Sheehan and Zhu, 2009). This tool could be tremendously valuable to
operators and engineers as to what to watch, what to focus on, and which knobs to
turn and when.

As a system, KEIs can be defined in a hierarchical structure, from overall

site to each process unit down to major equipment and individual operating
parameters. The sum of all incentives (opportunity gap between current and
targets) represents the total opportunity for the entire process and the overall site.
This hierarchical structure allows engineers to drill down from overall
performance to specific parameters and thus identify specific actions.

 Overall site view shows the site-wide energy consumption and greenhouse
gas (GHG) emission versus overall targets. At the same screen, the overall
site view shows the energy consumptions and GHG emissions in each
process unit. Traffic light color is assigned to indicate which processes are
furthest away from the targets.
 Process unit view indicates the process performance, which can be
measured by around 20 key energy indicators. These key energy indicators
are developed from a combination of design, process simulation, and
historical data. These predicated energy targets are automatically adjusted
to reflect current operating conditions such as feed rate and compositions,
operating mode, product yields, and so on. Color coding is assigned to
each KEI, which could indicate the need for drill down in the next level of
key indicators for identifying root causes and actions.
 Equipment view describes equipment performance via several key
operating parameters with indications of current values versus
corresponding targets. The operators may decide to perform a more
detailed investigation for the root causes if the gap is large.
 Deviation trends view allows operators to review over the time periods
when the KEI deviates significantly from the targets and to determine the
major causes of the deviation. By building up a history of causes,
operators are able to look back over time and see the most common causes
of deviations. This can lead to recommendations about remediable actions
for improving equipment performance and, hence, overall process