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The Benefits of Advanced Process Control

By Michael A Taube on 15 August 17 Blog

The complexity of a petroleum processing or refining facility grows. Those involved in the industry know the challenges in operating consistently at maximum efficiency.  The more subsystems involved, the easier it becomes for problems or inefficiencies in one aspect or another to become systemic issues dragging the entire process down. One problem can cause extended unusable product production.

To keep up schedules, quotas, and profits, site management and operations has to maintain total control over the system.  This is where advanced process control (APC) and automation systems makes a difference with the right skills applied,  A custom-designed APC solution, created to fit the specific needs of your operations, provides robust system-wide oversight, and maintains much higher overall levels of optimization; in other words, on-time schedules, meeting quotas and maintaining, often increasing profit ($).

What Can Advanced Process Control Systems Do in Petroleum Processing?


  • Detailed process modeling to determine optimum results.

Any advanced process control (APC) system is custom-fit to the needs of each individual plant or operation it’s designed for.  This means finely-tuned models of that facility’s processes, along with algorithms for calculating optimal operating conditions and parameters are created first by APC personnel.  Beyond being a necessity for the control systems, process modeling gives you even more hard data on exactly how well your plant could be performing, if all parameters are properly controlled. These models are used as the basis of APC systems; but, can also be used for off-line ‘what if’ situational studies.

  • Reduce process variability.

One of the biggest goals of APC is to minimize the amount of variability that occurs within any given sub-system.  Thus, the tighter the controls, the more finely-tuned the entire process, in fact, the entire plant can become.  This is generally accomplished by comparing the calculated model optimal figures with the real-world results to identify areas of inefficiency and take corrective action on-line as the process continues to produce on-spec product. 

  • Real-time optimization.

Once properly implemented, APC can often enable true real-time optimization, most often from a relatively simple control setup for operators.  Processes can be overseen and managed in unprecedented detail, while providing interfaces for tweaking and optimizing specific unit operations as necessary.  This often results in significant long-term improvements to efficiency.

  • Improved change responses, long-term planning and scheduling.

On the larger scale, APC systems make it possible for a plant to look much further ahead in its planning and scheduling.  Production can be scheduled months or potentially even years ahead of time, with assurance that they can be accomplished thanks to the advanced process control systems keeping everything on track, month after month.  This can then also translate into improved forecasting for shareholders and other investors. Further, with the detail process modeling, the impact of required changes in production can be understood better and these requirements better realized in a timely fashion.  

  • Better product quality at lower costs.

Finally, APC systems and their skilled application can help enable the overarching goal of any petroleum processing operation:  Producing better quality product at lower overall costs, especially off-spec, energy costs and production chemical consumption. As the trend to operate with fewer personnel continues, advanced process control is almost a necessity.  A tightly-managed, optimized, statistically modeled system is not only more reliable across the board; it provides much more flexibility and safety of operation.  Further, reliable guarantees can be made to customers and clients with assurances backed by hard machine science and modern automation systems.

Improve Your Plant’s Efficiency with SD Consulting

These advantages require knowledgeable, experienced advanced control engineers. While this type of expertise is becoming less available, S&D Consulting has more than twenty years’ experience working directly with the petroleum industry, implementing APC and custom solutions to reduce costs while improving quality and safety.  Contact us today to learn more about our custom consulting services.

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