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Chemical

E~ineerin@

0009-2509(94)=33-M

DEGREES

Department

OF FREEDOM

ANALYSIS

CONTROL

of Chemical Engineering

(Received

Copjri&t Q 1994 l3lsc~

Scima Ltd

Printed in Great Britain All r&hts ervcd

ams2509p4

31.00 + 0.00

IN PROCESS

JACK W. PONTON

University of Edinburgh, Kings Buildings, EH9 3JL, U.K.

29 January

1994)

Abstract-In

developing the control system for a process it is desirable to know precisely the number of

process variables which the system designer is entitled to attempt to regulate, commonly known as the

degrees of freedom of the process. An extremely simple procedure is described; the maximum degrees of

freedom for any process is shown to be the total number of process streams, including streams of heating

and cooling media. If inventory in processing units is excluded unless, it affects some more significant

variabte, such as pressure or composition, then the effective degrees of freedom arc generally determined by

subtracting one from the total for every additional phase contained in a unit.

INTRODUaION

the development

of control

strategies and control

system design. The original approach, first developed

by Kwauk (1952) in the context of design, has somewhat different constraints

and is rather tedious to

apply by hand.

A simple adaptation

of the method,

specific to

control, is presented. It does not require the complete

set of equations describing the process to be written

out, but still allows identification

of certain optional

constraints. It is thus flexible in use, and can conveniently be applied either by hand or, by suitable software, as an automatic procedure.

DEFINITIONS

The degrees of freedom of a process are here defined

as the number of process variables: temperatures,

pressures, compositions,

flow rates or component flow

rates, which can be set by the designer, operator or

control system. In the present case the control situation will be considered, and so the control degrees of

freedom

will be the number of the above types of

process variable which may be set, for example by a

control system, once non-adjustable

design variables,

such as vessel dimensions or numbers of trays, have

been fixed.

In this context, the number of degrees of freedom

thus corresponds

strictly to the number of manipulated variables which may be used in control loops.

However,

this is also

the

number

of

singleinput-single-output

control loops and of regulated

variables in the loops. It is sometimes more useful to

regard the state variables measured and thus regulated as the degrees

of freedom

variables,

since

these, in effect, will be fixed, at their setpoints, by the

control loops. The procedure which will be described

is, however, a counting process which identifies potential manipulations,

but does not directly

identify

variables which may be regulated.

using

only the steady state equations, thus an adjustment

which affects only holdup or inventory as such is not a

degree of freedom. However,

in certain systems, e.g.

single phase closed vessels, inventory

is related to

pressure which is a state variable appearing

in the

steady state equations. If only these equations

are

considered then it is implied that the system is indeed

maintained at steady state. Thus arrangements within

the process must be made to ensure that material

balances do balance, and that equipment intended to

contain several phases does in fact do so. To achieve

this will require either additional actual control loops,

or implicit control through the design of equipment,

e.g. with overflows or weirs. Any control loops of this

sort are not included in the count, unless they also

affect state variables such as pressure.

It is our contention that inventory should normally

be regarded as the least important of all variables to

be regulated. In a systematic, hierarchical technique

for developing control system structures (Ponton and

Lain& 1993) inventory loops are left until more important loops for strategic variables, those affecting

product rate, quality or process energy consumption,

have been chosen. It transpires that it is quite easy to

identify the need for inventory control at the same

time as the control

degrees of freedom

as defined

above are being counted. However,

the derivation

below does not include these, and fuller consideration

of inventory and its relationship

to these other variables is contained in a later section.

DERIVATION

by applying the

Kwauk method, as described by Smith (1963). Consider a unit with ni inlet streams and n, outlets. If there

are C components,

then in the case of design degrees

of freedom, (C + 2) are assigned to each input. This

implies that the designer has free choice over feed

stream composition,

temperature and pressure. While

2089

JACK W. PONTON

2090

where in general the only manipulation which can be

performed on a stream is to change its flow. Thus a

feed stream contributes only one item to the units

degrees of freedom.

Total degrees of freedom associated with streams

are thus:

n,=n,+n,(C+Z).

If there are n, energy inputs or outputs, either of heat

or mechanical energy, the total degrees of freedom are

n, = ni + n, + 2n, + Cn,.

Constraints are contributed firstly by C material balances and by one energy balance, a total of C + 1.

single phase only, since this is a design objective for

most process equipment. The number of constraints

will now be the sum of

(C + 1) balance equations,

2(n, - 1) output temperature.and pressure equalities,

each output stream having the same composition

as a phase, i.e. n,(C - 1) composition equalities,

and

(P - 1) sets of phase equilibrium relations, giving

a total of C(P - 1) such constraints.

Hence,

n, = (C + 1) + 2(n, - 1) + n,(C -

If we consider the case where there is a single phase

present in the unit, then all outlet streams will have

the same composition,

implying (C - l)(n, - 1) or

(Cn, - C - no + 1) further constraints.

All outlet streams can be assumed to have the same

temperature and pressure, a further 2(n, - 1) constraint equations.

The total number of constraints is thus

n, = (C + 1) + (Cn, - c - n, + 1) + 2(n, - 1)

= Cn, + ?I,.

Subtracting from the number of variables gives the net

degrees of freedom as just

nd = ni + n, + n,.

That is to say, the control of degrees of freedom, nd, is

just the number of connected material and energy

streams.

This surprising but elegant result may be justified

intuitively by the following argument. In any process,

a valve on every stream would be expected, if manipulated, to affect something. In some cases valves on

different streams may affect the same quantities, but

clearly in a control situation, where the structural

parameters of the process are fixed, it will not be

possible to manipulate more process variables than

there are available adjustments. The total number of

material and energy streams in the process thus represents an upper limit to the degrees of freedom in the

process.

Multiphase systems

If we consider the case of a unit containing more

than one phase it can be seen that the above result is

indeed an upper limit, but that the actual number of

control degrees of freedom can still be easily determined.

If the unit contains P phases in equilibrium, this

provides an additional (C - 1) composition variables

per phase, i.e. P(C - 1) in all. The total degrees of

freedom are now

n, = ni + n, + 2n, + Cn, + PC - P.

1) + C(P -

1)

=n,+Cn,+CP-1.

Subtracting

n, = n, - n, = ni + ne + n, - P + 1.

Note that this more general relationship does reduce

to the single phase expression when P is one, Checking the relationship for some specific examples confirms its applicability. A total vaporiser or condenser

has two material streams, one energy stream and two

phases. Thus n,, = 1 + 1 + 1 - 2 + 1 = 2 degrees of

freedom, e.g. feed rate and temperature or pressure,

but not both, which is correct. Note that the count is

correct where the product stream is not actually in

equilibrium with the vapour feed, or if it is subcooled.

Here there will still be a relationship between each of

the intensive properties of the two phases, i.e. equality

of phase compositions rather than an equilibrium

relation, and a rate equation relating temperatures

rather than an equality.

A three phase vapour-liquid-liquid

adiabatic flash

has one feed, three outputs and no energy streams.

Here n,, = 1 + 0 + 3 - 3 + 1 = 2 also. Typically feed

rate and pressure could be regulated.

An intuitive explanation for the reduction of degrees of freedom in multiphase systems is apparent

when a typical control system for this latter device is

considered, see Fig. 1.

The flexibility associated with the additional outputs is lost because these must be used to regulate

interface levels to maintain the correct number of

phases in the vessel. As noted earlier, these are not

degrees of freedom variables but inventories.

APPLICATION

TO

COMPLETE

PROCESSES

complete process is now trivial. Connected units sharing a stream lose one degree of freedom from the sum

of those for the individual units. Thus the stream

related degrees of freedom is simply equal to the total

number of material and energy streams in the process.

The degrees of freedom for the complete process

may be determined by either of two equivalent procedures.

hl.4

seems worthwhile. Nonetheless it is sensible to confirm that units which do not simply contain lumped

phases in equilibrium are also correctly treated by this

approach. Two illustrations are given below.

Furthermore, the method gives the maximum number of degrees of freedom in a complex unit or process.

Standard practice for many types of equipment involves not using all available degrees of freedom. The

unused degrees of freedom are generally associated

with pressure.

F

(a) Using the approach above determine the degrees of freedom for each unit. Sum these, and then

subtract the number of shared streams to obtain the

final count.

(b) Count all the streams in the process. Separately

count the total number of extra phases, i.e. add up

all occurrences of phases greater than one in all units.

A convenient way of determining and illustrating

the process control degrees of freedom by the second

method is shown in the accompanying flowsheet,

Fig. 2. All streams represent potential degrees of freedom and possible adjustable variables, but beside

each unit is written the number lost as a result of the

presence of multiple phases in the unit. Total process

degrees of freedom is easily determined and their

localisation at particular points in the process

indicated.

COMPLEX

2091

UNITS

freedom it is possible, if desired, to create lists of

degrees of freedom for particular complex units. However, the procedure here is so simple that it hardly

Total streams = 11

interchangers

A process-process heat exchanger or interchanger

can be thought of as a heater or condenser (if phase

change occurs) connected to a cooler or vaporiser by

an energy stream. The magnitude of the energy flow is

however not adjustable, being constrained by a rate

equation involving the stream temperatures, area and

heat transfer coefficient. In such an arrangement two

degrees of freedom are lost from the sum of those of

the two units, one for the connecting stream and one

for the rate equation. The energy interconnection

being hidden in the combined unit, the sum of the

visible streams, two inputs and two outputs, less any

deduction for two phases present, still gives the correct degrees of freedom. By analogy, a process heat

exchange bundle on any other type of unit should also

be correctly dealt with.

This can be thought of as a generalisation of the

rule for connecting

streams, so that units sharing a

material or energy stream lose one degree of freedom

from those of the individual units.

Countercurrent cascades

A single countercurrent equilibrium stage has three

degrees of freedom. A stack of N such units built into

a cascade, e.g. as in an absorber, will have (2N + 2)

streams, N two phase elements, and thus (IV + 2)

apparent degrees of freedom. These would never all be

Extra phases - -3

Total d. off. I 6

Fig. 2. Absorption processwith solvent recovery flash separator.

If the extents of reaction are determined by kinetics,

then the situation is somewhat more complex. Clearly

the extents will here depend on residence time, and

thus on inventory. Here is a case where inventory, see

discussion below, is a control degree of freedom. Since

changing inventory will change the composition of

reactor products it will be possible to use an adjustment which affects inventory as a means of effecting

composition or conversion control. The effect of inventory on conversion will restore the degree of freedom lost in multiphase systems by each phase in

which a kinetically determined reaction occurs.

INVENTORY

(a) material balances will always be somehow balanced, and (b) that an adjustment which affects only

inventory is not as such a control degree of freedom.

An alternative view of (b) is that inventory control

should be regarded as a taking up a degree of freedom.

Under this assumption the number of degrees of

freedom will always equal the number of material and

energy streams. Thus for the three phase flash there

would be five degrees of freedom rather than three, the

additional two being the inventories of the two liquids. This alternative approach does have the advantage of identifying all the potential control loops,

explicit or implicit, which will exist in a process.

As previously noted, inventory should normally be

regarded as the least important of all variables to be

regulated, since it does not usually affect product rate,

quality or process energy consumption. Inventory

control loops should thus be left until those involving

quantities such as the above have been chosen. This

view can be justified by considering the two liquid

inventories in the three phase flash; there are likely to

be few circumstances when the actual values of these

will be critical to profitability or operability.

Nonetheless, inventories do require to be regulated

somehow, as mass balances must balance. It is often

possible to design equipment so that inventories are

self regulating, for example by the use of standpipes or

overflows. These are, however implicit control

loops, and require to be counted as such. Similarly, if a

potential control loop is omitted, as in the countercurrent cascade, an implicit control loop also exists,

the quantity being controlled, in this case tray

pressure, having a variable but acceptably small offset

from that of the adjacent unit or tray. Degrees of

freedom associated with pressure, are frequently unused, as can be seen from the example below.

It is quite straightforward to identify when and

where inventory regulation, implicit or explicit,

should be provided. Two trivial but useful rules provide the designer with this information.

If n streams join together in a process or part of a

process over which mass must be conserved (normally any process), then the flow of only (n - 1) of

these may be set by control loops other than one

2093

process.

In any unit containing P phases, P explicit or

implicit control loop must be provided to maintain

P inventories, which may include combinations of

phases such as total inventory. This number allows

for a loop to regulate total inventory.

There appear to be three circumstances in which

inventory affects strategic process variables, and thus

should be counted as a control degree of freedom.

Firstly, the case of holdup dependent reaction conversion, as discussed in the previous section.

Secondly, in situations where inventory determines

pressure. In principle any change in inventory may

have some effect on pressure. For example in the three

phase flash, if the liquids have different densities then

any change in any inventory will affect the pressure at

the bottom of the vessel. Most equipment is conventionally regulated at a single nominal pressure. Only

one of the inventory loops can then be a pressure

loop. If the system contains a vapour, this would

normally be the loop associated with vapour inventory. In a single phase system the relationship

between inventory and pressure is always accounted

for in the counting procedure described. However, in

practice the designer should be wary of the practical

difficulties of attempting to regulate pressure in an allliquid system.

Finally, the construction of certain types of equipment means that a change in holdup will affect performance, for example by changing the surface area

available for heat transfer. An example of this is the

classic flooded condenser method of adjusting the

heat transferred in a heat exchanger containing two

phases. As the exchanger, normally mounted vertically, fills with liquid, the tube area available for phase

change heat transfer is reduced, thus reducing the heat

transferred. This does not provide an additional degree of freedom, but only an alternative way of manipulating the system. See also the discussion of distillation below.

It should be noted that where inventory affects

several strategic variables there will still only be one

degree of freedom. Thus a vapour phase, adiabatic

kinetically constrained reactor has two streams and

thus two degrees of freedom even though inventory

affects both pressure and conversion. A control

scheme for such a reactor could regulate throughput

and pressure, or conversion and pressure, but not all

three quantities.

CONTROL

DEGREES

OF FREEDOM

IN DISTILLATION

process then more degrees of freedom can be seen to

exist than are normally used. Figure 3 shows the

analysis of a conventional column with integral reboiler and separate total condenser, yielding five degrees of freedom. A typical control strategy for such a

process would use only four of these, for example feed

rate, column pressure, top and bottom composition.

If

2094

JACK W, PONTON

2

Fig. 3. Distillation

column, total

degrees of

freedom.

This is because the column and condenser are normally maintained at the same pressure. However, a

valve could be placed in the line between them. This

would actually be undesirable, as reducing the condenser pressure will decrease the temperature driving

force available from the cooling medium.

In practice, the whole of the system comprising

condenser, reflux drum and column is often kept at

the same nominal pressure with no valves other than

those shown in Fig. 4(a). Treating the condenser and

reboiler as a single unit, within the dotted envelope,

we can see that the degrees of freedom are accounted

for. There are four external streams and two phases,

hence three degrees of freedom for the subsystem. One

is deliberately unused by maintaining column and

condenser at the same pressure, one is used for pressure regulation, and one is occupied by setting the

flow of the reflux stream.

The alternative flooded condenser method of pressure regulation, Fig. 4(b), requires that there be liquid

in the condenser. The cooling water here is not adjusted, but acts as an implicit interface maintenance

control; it must be set so as to keep some liquid in the

condenser. It thus does not provide an additional

degree of freedom.

There appears to be no particular reason to maintain two phases in the reflux drum in this case; indeed

it will not be possible unless condensate flashes as a

result of a significant

pressure drop, which seems

undesirable, or the drum is vented in some way. The

reason for keeping an interface in the drum in the

previous scheme is that it is easier to measure it there

than in the condenser itself. However, if it is feasible to

measure an interface in the condenser, then it should

be possible to dispense with the reflux drum, saving an

item of equipment and improving safety and economy

by reducing inventory, as shown in (c).

Finally, experimenting with unusual overhead configurations led to the structure shown in (d). This

eliminates the reflux drum inventory, and while it

appears to add another heat exchanger, the partial

condenser Cl which provides reflux, could be built

into the same shell as the total condenser C2 which

@I

63

Fig. 4.

+_

--uQ

condenses the product. Indeed both could be built

into the top of the column as a variation on the rather

old fashioned dephlegmator. Not only is inventory

minimal in this system, but there are no valves on the

process side, a further advantage if the material

handled is corrosive or toxic.

2095

of its effects.

The technique is so simple that it hardly seems

worthwhile to automate it, but this can be done very

easily if required.

CONCLUSIONS

REFERENCES

above confirms the approach implicit in (Ponton and Laing, 1993) that the

design of a control strategy can proceed by looking at

the number of potential adjustments, i.e. the total

number of streams, including energy inputs and outputs. The result is a trivially straightforward method

for counting degrees of freedom in which the effect of

design. Ch.E.R.D. 70, 448-458.

Douglas, J. M., 1988, The conceptual design of chemical

processes. McGraw-Hill, New York.

Kwauk, M., 1952, A.I.Ch.E. J. 2, 240.

Ponton, J. W. and Lain& D. M., 1993, The hierarchical

design of process co&o1

systems, Ch.E.R.D.

71, A2,

181-188.

Smith, B. D., 1963, Design of equilibrium stage processes,

Chap. 3, McGraw-Hill, New York.

The

procedure

inventory

developed

can be accounted

for explicitly,

and either

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