Issue 5

Summer 2012

Whitehouse Consulting

Process Control Newsletter

Chemical Engineering graduate survey in progress

Whitehouse is conducting a survey to determine how well university Chemical Engineering departments teach process control. Once sufficient numbers have responded the intent is to publish the results as part of a report suggesting ways of bringing about improvement. So far about 350 people have responded. If you are a Chemical Engineering graduate then please take a few minutes to complete it. There are just 9 multiple choice questions plus space to add any other comments. It should take less than 5 minutes. It can be found on the home page of our web site.

18 years of open-access courses in The Netherlands

We first began presenting our open-access courses in The Netherlands in 1995. Over 250 delegates, from over 40 companies, have attended what is now a regular event. After a couple of years in Rijswijk, this year they are back in Delft. Already they are sufficiently booked up to ensure that all will run. As an essential precursor to all the others, the Basic Control course is particularly popular and is likely to be full. So the advice is to book early!

Basic Control Techniques

Oct 29th - 31st

Advanced Control Techniques

Nov 1st - 2nd

Compressor Control

Nov 5th

Boiler/Fired Heater Control

Nov 6th

Distillation Column Control

Nov 7th - 9th

More details of the content are available on our web site. Information on fees and location can be obtained from the web site of our partner Paperwork.

Interested in an in-company course? These can be tailored as required and are a more economic solution if there are four delegates or more. The full range of modules is described on our web site. We can also structure on-site courses around some real controllers - a very effective way of demonstrating that the techniques really work! If you want to try a course before deciding then come along to an open-access course. We will refund the course fee if, within a year, you book the equivalent in-company course.

Would you like to understand more about the technical content of courses, or how companies have used them? Just contact us.

New website and LinkedLinkedIn

We launched our new website in January 2011. It gives detailed descriptions of all the courses we offer and which companies have used them. There are also screen prints from our Process Control Engineering Toolkit and Training software which give a concise summary of all of the functions included. As promised we have included the option to download (free of charge) a module that will help with controller design and tuning. So far over 1,300 people have taken advantage of the offer.

We can also be found on LinkedIn. At the time of writing this newsletter, we had over 12,000 people in our network. Please join us, particularly if you're interested in what we're doing with our training and Myke King's book. It is definitely worth participating in some of the discussions. Controller tuning is always a hot topic in many of the groups. Needless to say Whitehouse usually has something to say on the subject! Other subjects include process-specific control designs and the teaching of process control. It can be a very useful source of free advice.

New course module covering inferential properties

Responding to the increasing demand for training in the development of inferential properties Whitehouse has announced the release of a new course module. Known also as 'soft sensors' or 'virtual analysers', inferentials offer the opportunity to quickly and reliably detect a change in property. They have long been covered in the established Distillation Control and Project Execution modules but several clients have asked for more in-depth training.

The module includes eight case studies for completion by the students. Each aims to demonstrate some of the more surprising aspects of successful development and installation. Full details are available on our website. The module will be presented for the first time in September, for one of Whitehouse's clients in South Africa. In November it will be included in a course in Spain, during which students will be helped to build real inferentials using data they have collected from the real process. Mixing real engineering with the training is becoming increasingly popular amongst Whitehouse's clients. Student confidence grows more quickly and their work is applicable immediately to the real process. The benefits then captured justify, usually within a few days, the cost of the course.

Book sales going well

more details

Myke King's book continues to sell well. After 18 months since its publication it still regularly reaches the top 2% of Amazon's best seller list of over 8 million books.

Using the minimum of mathematics, it aims to teach the practical application of process control. It was developed from our courses and includes all of their content, plus a whole lot of other good stuff!

While originally intended for industry it has already been adopted by several universities to support the teaching of process control to chemical engineers. Hopefully this trend will continue as Chemical Engineering departments move away from the traditional and highly theoretical content - much of which has little relevance to the process industry. To further encourage its use Whitehouse has agreed with its publisher, Wiley, that university students and lecturers can purchase the book at a heavily discounted price.

We've had a few suggestions about what else the book might have covered. Any comments are very welcome. Just e-mail them to the author. Hopefully there will be a second edition or perhaps a companion book.

Support for universities

As part of its commitment to helping improve the way that process control is taught as part of Chemical Engineering, Whitehouse is now providing teaching support to a number of universities. It now makes available (free of charge) its Process Control Engineering Toolkit and Training software to any academic institution wishing to use it to support their courses. So far 10 universities around the world have taken advantage of this offer.

Whitehouse continues to be involved in teaching part of the MSc course offered by PACT at Newcastle University. In January we presented (for the 7th time) a substantial part of the module entitled Dynamics and Control of Distillation Columns.

LSBU took advantage of Whitehouse's offer to present some of its lectures. Over 9 hours of material were presented primarily covering the topics Process Dynamics, Feedforward Control, Compressor Control and Fired Heater Control. Any Chemical Engineering graduates who think that their university might welcome such assistance can contact Whitehouse. We make no charge for lecturing, although some help covering expenses is always welcome.

Following a successful webinar on the control of distillation columns that Whitehouse presented on behalf of the UK's Institution of Chemical Engineers Fluid Separations Subject Group, we have been requested to develop another for presentation to Chemical Engineering undergraduates. This is scheduled to take place early next year and will be offered to students and staff - including those at UCL , Manchester and Swansea.

South American initiative

Whitehouse has, for the first time ventured, into South America. It was commissioned by YPF, at the time largely owned by Repsol, to run its Basic Control and Distillation Control courses in Buenos Aires. Over 30 staff attended from across the country. Although presented in English, simultaneous translation to Spanish was provided for the few that needed it. The course was deemed a great success but was made more memorable by the announcement on the second day that the Argentine government displaced Repsol by taking a 51% ownership of YPF!

Recent papers

The most recent of our papers Are you losing money when tuning controllers? was published in Hydrocarbon Processing in January this year. This and older articles are available on our web site. They offer advice on many aspects of process control and information systems. Some of them are pretty large files so some patience might be required in downloading them. Watch for another article in Hydrocarbon Processing scheduled to be published in the October Special Report on Process Control.


Toolkit and Training software (version 11.5) released

We have released version 11.5 of our Process Control Engineering Toolkit and Training software. In version 11.1 many of the modules in the Toolkit have been enhanced. In particular the PID tuning package has been expanded to cover more vendor-specific control algorithms (such as ABB, Emerson, Eurotherm, Foxboro, Hartman & Braun, Honeywell and Yokogawa). In addition to Whitehouse's well-proven tuning technique it also includes the option of applying IMC tuning (also known as the Lambda or Direct Synthesis method) and an approach that enables the Ziegler-Nichols closed loop method to be applied without the need to cause the process to oscillate.

The inferential tool has in particular proved very successful with our users, offering a low cost method of quickly developing and assessing inferential properties. It too has been enhanced.

Version 11.5 addresses the issues arising from installation under Windows 7 and changes in the interface to Excel made necessary by recent changes by Microsoft. This version is free to users of Version 11 and available for a small charge to users of Version 10.

The Toolkit now includes:

  • dynamic model identification
  • PID controller tuner
  • inferential property development
  • parallel coordinates
  • relative gain analysis
  • Lagrangian interpolation
  • pressure compensated temperature development
  • physical property database
  • engineering unit conversion utility

Full details, with some example screen displays, are on the toolkit pages in our web site. The training modules have also be enhanced. They now include:

  • feed drum to enable the user to learn about tight and averaging level control, and the use of non-linear algorithms
  • fired heater to help with the understanding of process dynamics, PID tuning, the use of filters and feedforward control
  • effluent treatment to show the difficulties of controlling highly non-linear processes and how these can be overcome
  • compressor to permit the exploration of the common load control schemes and surge protection
  • reactor to offer solutions to problems associated with inherently unstable processes, long deadtimes, discontinuous measurements and variable dynamics
  • distillation column to allow the application of all the common control strategies, including inferential property control
  • steam boiler to help the user design schemes to deal with changing fuel gas conditions, dual firing, excess air control and steam drum level control
  • process optimisation using multivariable control and an open-equation based optimiser

Full details are on the software pages of our web site.

Course delegates now permitted to retain software

Until recently delegates on in-company courses had free access to the software for the duration of the course but had to purchase a licence (at a discounted price) if they wanted to retain it permanently. Now delegates are permitted to retain any software installed on their PC during the course. Effectively given an unsupported single user licence each delegate can, on return to work, make immediate use of it by applying it to real controllers. As ever, Whitehouse will provide free consulting support to delegates later implementing the techniques covered by the course.

Not heard of Whitehouse before?

While training is an important part of business, we are primarily an independent consulting organisation specialising in the practical application of advanced control and information systems to the process industries. Our aim is to ensure our clients exploit all the profit improvement opportunities in the most cost effective way. Since we provide neither the technology nor implementation services our clients can be confident that the advice we offer is impartial. Whitehouse was established over 20 years ago and has worked with many of the world's leading companies. Its consultants each have around 35 years experience. Full details of our services are available from our website. This also provides clients lists and contact details.

It is not our policy to continue to send unsolicited e-mail to our clients. Recipients preferring not to receive future issues should not hesitate to e-mail its editor. The same address can be used to change the recipient or to add others.