Loughborough University
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Model-based approach to plant-wide economic control of fluid catalytic cracking unit

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posted on 2011-07-05, 08:33 authored by Redah M. Alsabei
Fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) is one of the most important processes in the petroleum refining industry for the conversion of heavy gasoil to gasoline and diesel. Furthermore, valuable gases such as ethylene, propylene and isobutylene are produced. The performance of the FCC units plays a major role on the overall economics of refinery plants. Any improvement in operation or control of FCC units will result in dramatic economic benefits. Present studies are concerned with the general behaviour of the industrial FCC plant, and have dealt with the modelling of the FCC units, which are very useful in elucidating the main characteristics of these systems for better design, operation, and control. Traditional control theory is no longer suitable for the increasingly sophisticated operating conditions and product specifications of the FCC unit. Due to the large economic benefits, these trends make the process control more challenging. There is now strong demand for advanced control strategies with higher quality to meet the challenges imposed by the growing technological and market competition. According to these highlights, the thesis objectives were to develop a new mathematical model for the FCC process, which was used to study the dynamic behaviour of the process and to demonstrate the benefits of the advanced control (particularly Model Predictive Control based on the nonlinear process model) for the FCC unit. The model describes the seven main sections of the entire FCC unit: (1) the feed and preheating system, (2) reactor, (3) regenerator, (4) air blower, (5) wet gas compressor, (6) catalyst circulation lines and (7) main fractionators. The novelty of the developed model consists in that besides the complex dynamics of the reactorregenerator system, it includes the dynamic model of the fractionator, as well as a new five lump kinetic model for the riser, which incorporates the temperature effect on the reaction kinetics; hence, it is able to predict the final production rate of the main products (gasoline and diesel), and can be used to analyze the effect of changing process conditions on the product distribution. The FCC unit model has been developed incorporating the temperature effect on reactor kinetics reference construction and operation data from an industrial unit. The resulting global model of the FCC unit is described by a complex system of partial-differential-equations, which was solved by discretising the kinetic models in the riser and regenerator on a fixed grid along the height of the units, using finite differences. The resulting model is a high order DAE, with 942 ODEs (142 from material and energy balances and 800 resulting from the discretisation of the kinetic models). The model offers the possibility of investigating the way that advanced control strategies can be implemented, while also ensuring that the operation of the unit is environmentally safe. All the investigated disturbances showed considerable influence on the products composition. Taking into account the very high volume production of an industrial FCC unit, these disturbances can have a significant economic impact. The fresh feed coke formation factor is one of the most important disturbances analysed. It shows significant effect on the process variables. The objective regarding the control of the unit has to consider not only to improve productivity by increasing the reaction temperature, but also to assure that the operation of the unit is environmentally safe, by keeping the concentration of CO in the stack gas below a certain limit. The model was used to investigate different control input-output pairing using classical controllability analysis based on relative gain array (RGA). Several multi-loop control schemes were first investigated by implementing advanced PID control using anti-windup. A tuning approach for the simultaneous tuning of multiple interacting PID controllers was proposed using a genetic algorithm based nonlinear optimisation approach. Linear model predictive control (LMPC) was investigated as a potential multi-variate control scheme applicable for the FCCU, using classical square as well as novel non-square control structures. The analysis of the LMPC control performance highlighted that although the multivariate nature of the MPC approach using manipulated and controlled outputs which satisfy controllability criteria based on RGA analysis can enhance the control performance, by decreasing the coupling between the individual low level control loops operated by the higher level MPC. However the limitations of using the linear model in the MPC scheme were also highlighted and hence a nonlinear model based predictive control scheme was developed and evaluated.



  • Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering


  • Chemical Engineering


Loughborough University

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© Redah Mousa Alsabei

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en


Zoltan Nagy ; V. Nassehi

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  • PhD

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

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