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Chapter 2

Introduction to Process Design and Construction

The reason that we have manufacturing processes is that they offer a way to make money. There were processes before there was writing, but they didn’t proliferate until money was invented. The first manufacturing processes used readily available natural materials because no one owned the natural materials or made intermediate prod- ucts. If a process is to make money, then the value of the incoming materials plus the work done must be less than the value of the product to customers.

An early process like copper smelting used free materials and had no production costs because time had no measured value then. Another process may turn the copper into jewelry or axe heads for trade. When a technology change occurs, like the introduc- tion of bronze, the smelter modifies the process to make bronze, and the coppersmith either learns how to work bronze and develops a market for it, or goes out of business. Add in the type of person that just has to own more stuff than anybody else and extend the idea of ownership to land and then mineral rights—oh, and add lawyers to make and interpret rules—and you have the basis for all of human history. So you see, manufacturing processes are important. The health of the planet is also important, but no monetary value has been placed on it.

A process begins with a rough design. Sometimes it is a copy of someone else’s design. Some of the industrial spies who take pictures of operating processes are gathering data for design. The rest do it to prove patent infringement.

The following is a generic description of the genesis of a project to build a process, whether it is brand new or an addition to or modification of an existing process. The description is followed by an example of a relatively simple but high energy batch process that was built circa 1974.

Initial Steps

Many different skills are required to transform a process from an idea into a money- maker, after the process has been shown to work on a small scale. The first things that need to be established are the extent of the demand for the product created by the new process, the probable duration of that demand, and the possible selling

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price. These establish an upper limit for the total cost of designing, building, oper- ating, and decommissioning the new process. Market timing heavily influences the construction schedule.

If the dollars and timing are acceptable to top management then representatives from Marketing, Engineering, and Operations meet to determine feasibility and risk. Each representative should be experienced in all three fields as well as dealing with top management. A representative should be able to see the connections between many aspects of a problem that other specialists cannot see because of their narrow training. Ideally, each has grown up in the organization and learned from senior people because they need to be capable of accurate guesswork and to know who has the information to support it. The key factors are analytical and intuitive intelligence, broad experience, and communication skills. Experience must be tempered by the fact that rapid changes in technology can make feasible something that failed only a few months ago.

An organization that outsources any of these functions loses the training, experience and connectedness that accumulate with time spent working for the organization’s goals. If only the senior people are kept to write requirements for outsourcing organi- zations, then there will be no one to replace them. Even if top management expects to grow by buying new companies, when the purchased companies have been stripped and used up, a time will come when there is nothing available to purchase. Such management, frequently encountered in takeovers, replaces the goal of making good products for satisfied customers with the very narrow goal of making money now.

If the process appears to be feasible, then the representatives prepare a preliminary project plan with a rough budget and schedule for presentation to top management, since they control the flow from the bucket of money that is the company. After dis- cussions intended to reveal and resolve any unknown negative management factors, the plan is presented at a meeting to ratify the informal decision to proceed. If some negative factor cannot be resolved, then the project dies or goes to the back burner for further simmering, and the representatives go back to being knowledge and experi- ence resources for their branches of the organization chart.

Several things happen if the preliminary project plan is approved.

Operations names a Plant or Operations Manager, who chooses the necessary people from Operations’ resources to review current project work, answer ques- tions from other groups, and draft changes to the project as necessary.

Project Management creates a new project and names a Project Manager who designates the people from Project Management resources that will work on the initial stages of the project, such as scheduling and site selection.

Engineering names a Process Engineer for the new project and selects people from the engineering specialties to work on the initial design.

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Other groups, such as Marketing, Information and Accounting, begin making their own preliminary plans.

Engineering, in consultation with Operations and Projects, prepares a working process flow diagram (PFD) in enough detail to allow Projects to prepare an estimated budget. Adding a process to an existing plant introduces complications that are not found in a new plant.

An operating budget is negotiated with Top Management if everything looks manage- able. The project completion date is also set because it affects the budget. If approved, available money and the deadlines begin to make things happen.

The Process Engineer meets with counterparts from Operations and Projects to pre- pare the final, detailed PFD and a detailed budget that provides money for the planning resources and gives a firmer estimate of the costs of major equipment and process operation. Instrument, piping, and construction costs are still just estimated percentages of the approved budget because no detail work can be done until the final PFD is available.

Given the final PFD, project deadlines, and budget limits, the functional groups can now start the detailed designs for their functions. The number of groups becomes larger with the addition of Quality Assurance, Maintenance, Information, and other groups from Operations like Safety, Operator Training, Storage, Utilities, and Trans- portation. The representatives may stay in the design process or go back to what they were doing as the design is subdivided and becomes more internal to the functional groups. Both the level of experience and communication skills become more impor- tant as more people become involved. The mix of people will change over the life of the project. Adding a person that has insufficient experience and no one to turn to for help is like adding cold water to a boiler. Momentum is lost and will have to be built back up again. Adding an outside organization after the project has started is like put- ting out the fire and opening the safety valves, but it may be necessary if consultants don’t help.

A successful project depends on a well-understood fixed goal, clear definitions of requirements and cross-functional as well as internal communications. Someone from top management must keep track of the project and show some enthusiasm for it, while refreshing the view of the goal and not allowing feature creep to dissipate the resources before the project is complete. Representatives must periodically review the work in progress to assure that it stays on track toward the stated goal. If your com- pany has only one employee, all of the above still applies. You just have to write notes to yourself from the different perspectives described. Meetings are simplified, but the review function still needs to be scheduled, so that you don’t go too far without looking around.

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Process Flow Diagram

The PFD is the initial problem statement that starts the detail engineering process. It shows major vessels with the energy and material flows among them, based on esti- mates of process requirements. Even if the final product is not known, enough information must be available to create a generic PFD because there is much work to be done. Often, the nature of the new product narrows down the choices consider- ably. Soap requires saponification and a polymer requires monomer injection and heat removal, but an unknown drug requires a general-purpose process. These all have a generic PFD that has to be scaled to the desired production rate.

An example of a PFD is shown in Figure 2-1. It is for the TPA Process example below.

A PFD is incomplete without a process narrative. This document describes the opera- tion of the process beyond what is obvious from the connections of vessels and the material flows. A caution like “Do not allow the temperature of the heating jacket to exceed that of the contents by more than 50 degrees” would appear in this document. A batch process would have a description of each stage of the process.

The PFDs for continuous and discrete processes only need to show the conditions for a given production rate. A batch process, by definition, does not have any continually maintained conditions. A material balance is only possible when levels are not changing, so batch conditions must be shown as snapshots in time. Similarly, an energy balance requires steady heat flows and temperatures. Energy flow for a utility such as steam may depend on where several batch processes are in time. The energy required for or released by the reaction must be known. All byproducts and their properties, including corrosion, must be known. These complications require that the PFD for a batch process be accompanied by a written description of the preliminary recipe that is used for the calculations, including approximate quantities of materials and a procedure for processing the materials. A material and energy balance PFD must be prepared for each major condition of the process, as described by the preliminary recipe. The bal- ances are done on an average basis, like average mass per hour. The vessel and piping arrangement will be the same in each PFD unless the reactor is mobile.

A PFD usually names the vessels and specifies the volume and general construction, including any special wetted materials. An example is “R-2207, 5 cubic meters, glass- lined mild steel, with a steam/brine heat exchange jacket.” The PFD shows basic piping with maximum flow rates and pressure drops. Measurement and control locations may be shown in a generic manner, with ranges and units but no specifications for instruments. Vessel location is not specified, so there is no location or sizing specified for piping and instrumentation unless it is important to the operation of the process.

The completed PFD marks the end of the process engineer’s input to the process, except to answer questions and resolve problems related to the drawing. This is not true if the rest of engineering is outsourced. Now the process engineer must commu- nicate all of the details necessary to have the final process resemble the PFD, to people

Introduction to Process Design and Construction 23 Figure 2-1 Example of a PFD (TPA Process)
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Figure 2-1 Example of a PFD (TPA Process)
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who do not even share the goal. All aspects of the outside work must be checked for misunderstandings because people will nod and say, “Yes, I understand” when in fact they don’t know what they failed to understand.

Analysis

The process design, as expressed by the PFD and recipe, must be analyzed down to the last little detail. The amount of detail necessary to describe, review, locate, pur- chase, install, test, operate, and maintain controlled equipment can be overwhelming. Analysis is the art of breaking down big problems into smaller ones. The first break- down is done by drawing some nonintersecting boundaries around major sets of items on the PFD. The boundaries must minimize the interaction of the bounded details with the details of other processes, if they are to be useful. A change in the class of process strongly suggests a location for a boundary.

Consider the specialty baking plant in Chapter 1. The seven labeled boxes and two conveyors in Figure 1-3 are a way to begin the analysis, even though Figure 1-3 is not a PFD. The Solids box conceals details about the kind of solids, their storage and meas- urement, when to feed what and how much. The Dough Mixer has special agitators (beaters, really) to mix the dough and the assembly must be cleaned and sanitized peri- odically. The Weigh Feeder may have a nozzle that moves with the baking pan in order to fill the pan properly. The Oven has to be designed to retain heat even though it runs with its doors open. The combustion system has to be properly sized and have the cor- rect distribution of burners. And so on, from process to systems to components.

Piping and Instrumentation Diagram

The final PFD becomes a requirements document for the detail designers in various engineering disciplines. First, the major vessels are sized (or selected from pre-owned vessels) so that they can be assigned locations on the construction site. While this is proceeding the instrument engineers begin the process of specifying sensors and actuators in order to find the long lead-time items. When the vessels are sized and located, the piping engineers start laying out the piping runs, after determining sizes and materials from the PFD. A 3-D model of the vessels and piping may be required to assure that pipes don’t occupy the same space as vessels or other pipes. Instrument engineers use the model to choose locations for sensors and valves. All of this activity may cause changes to the vessel penetrations, which causes rework of completed designs. Some engineers even use the model to be sure that there is reasonable human access to the instruments, especially those engineers who have been sent out to start up the part of the process that they designed.

A rough example of a P&ID is shown in Figure 2-2. It is for the TPA Process example below.

Work can begin on the Piping and Instrumentation Diagram (P&ID) when the model settles down. This set of drawings shows the details of vessel and piping locations, sizes, and materials. It also shows the location of sensors and valves. Different pages of the set are defined by boundaries drawn on the PFD, with a minimum number of

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Introduction to Process Design and Construction 25 Figure 2-2 Rough Example of a P&ID

Figure 2-2 Rough Example of a P&ID

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pipes shown connecting to other pages, where possible. When the P&ID settles down, the instrument engineers can develop enough data to specify the sensors and valves that attach to pipes or vessels, and give the specs to Purchasing. Then the model is used to choose locations for junction boxes, conduits, and trenches or cable trays, and these are added to the model to prevent interference. It is expensive to modify the location of a vessel penetration or to rework a section of prefabricated bent and welded pipe after it has been brought to the construction site. Cable trays and con- duits can be relocated on site, but the amount of wire ordered is based on lengths taken from the model.

The P&ID is the basis for assigning tag numbers to field instruments. Someone takes a pencil and numbers each instrument from top left to bottom right with two digits for the P&ID page number followed by two digits counted from the top left. The last number used on a page may be noted in the notes section of the page. Your plant may require more digits, but this works fine for 500 to 1000 indicators and loops. ISA has a standard for naming tags with prefixes that give the purpose of the instrument, such as FT for Flow Transmitter. Ask for ISA-5. If the first instrument on page 1 of a rela- tively simple process is a flow transmitter, then its tag would be FT-101. The last tag of a P&ID with more than nine pages might be TT-2734.

Computer systems need to allocate memory space for tag names. That space has grown from 5-8 characters at the dawn of the DCS to 32 circa 1995. Now the tag can contain the function and the site GPS coordinates for any instrument, but the 32 char- acters are usually used to add more hierarchical location information.

Each instrument is ordered with its unique tag name, preferably engraved on a stain- less steel tag that is affixed to the body of the instrument. This allows each instrument to be tracked through the vendor’s facility to the construction site’s receiving ware- house and then to its correct location in the process. The guy dragging the big pipe wrench on the ground just has to look for a tag number, without concern for the instrument span or materials of construction, and match it with a tag name at a loca- tion on a pipe or vessel drawing. This works well for construction as long as nobody transposes digits in all of the order processing.

The maintenance department will not have stainless tags for the spare instruments. Spares are tracked by the serial number of the instrument, which is independent of location. The tag name defines a unique plant location and the type of instrument required. A physical digital instrument is uniquely defined by its 32-character Device ID. The stainless steel tags are going away as digital instruments replace analog.

Loop Sheets

When the P&ID drawing set has been approved, work can begin on the final level of physical instrumentation details. A drawing is made for each indicator or control loop. Each drawing is called a loop sheet and is identified by an instrument tag number, usually the tag of the transmitter. A loop sheet shows the locations of instruments,

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wiring, junction boxes, cable trays, blockhouse/control room entry points, and control system connections. Some loop sheets even show calibration values and other useful information, such as the things that will be affected if this instrument is disconnected.

An example of a Loop Sheet is shown in Figure 2-3. It is for the TPA Process example below.

Introduction to Process Design and Construction 27 wiring, junction boxes, cable trays, blockhouse/control room entry points,

Figure 2-3 Example of a Loop Sheet

The set of loop sheets provides the information necessary to order peripheral items such as junction boxes and spools of cable. The instruments are detailed in Specifica- tion Sheets (see ISA-20-1981), which are referenced on the loop sheets. Loop sheets also provide the information required to maintain the sensors and actuators during the life of the process.

An operator uses the controller tag to report an instrument problem. A maintenance person uses that tag to locate a loop sheet for that indicator or control loop. Depending on the problem, the wiring may be examined from the control system to the field instru- ment, looking for junction boxes without covers and cables that have been used as ladder rungs. The instrument may be given a functional test and either repaired or replaced. Sometimes an operator will report a problem because a pressure gage or ther- mometer does not give the same reading as the transmitter, which costs ten times as much. A good loop sheet will reference or show instruments that give a second opinion, which allows Maintenance to ask the operator about this possibility and to check the less expensive instrument first.

If the replacement instrument uses digital communication then it will need to have the proper tag entered before it is installed, along with the correct configuration for the new location. The data that stays with the instrument, such as calibration coefficients, is not changed when the tag is changed. The replaced instrument may be repaired and returned to the storehouse, but the stainless tag on it (if any) is now obsolete.

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Example of Process Design and Construction

The market for polyester was expanding rapidly in the early 1970s. A new plant for continuously processing xylene into dimethyl terephthalate (DMT) was built with equipment scaled up by a factor of four. A shipment of DMT contains about 10% methanol, which the end user has to remove. In response to customer demand, a new batch process was designed and built that would strip the methanol from DMT and produce terephthalic acid (TPA) crystals. The process was simple—mix the DMT with water and drop the crystals into a slurry tank. The problem was that the reaction was reversible and weak at room temperature. A trade-off was made between yield and the cost of construction materials. The chosen design pressure was 750 psi at about 520°F.

The process was developed in a high-pressure pilot plant at the research center. The result was a chemical procedure that quantified the ratios to be mixed, agitator power, pressure and temperature, waste products and a temperature trajectory for cooling and crystallizing.

Note that the following numbers and diagrams are memories from thirty years ago. This data was innovative at the time, but the process is obsolete now because it is not the least expensive way to make TPA. Don’t even think about using these numbers for a new design.

Process design engineers then worked the trade-offs required to arrive at a vessel size and batch cycle time for maximum production rate. Four batch reactors were required, each 16 feet in diameter and 40 feet high, with 6-inch-thick steel walls. Each had a 75 hp two-speed agitator with two blades on a stepped shaft. A hot water heater and a flare stack had to be in a remote area where open flames were safe. The flare was required for the poisonous gases given off at the start of the reaction. The slurry tank was located below the group of reactors, with a large blowout seal in case a hot reactor had to be dumped. TPA crystals were recovered from the slurry with a cen- trifuge. The water that was not consumed by the reaction was stripped of methanol and returned to the 750 psi heater.

Many batch processes have a jacketed reactor and heat transfer fluid handling. A jacket is impractical with 6-inch thick reactor walls. Steam was used directly in the vessel to heat it up. Final heating was done by the large hot water charge. The DMT charge was also hot, to keep the DMT molten. Cooling was done by a vent condenser, which returned cooled condensate to the reactor. The rate of cooling was regulated by the rate of condensate flow. Initial cooling was done by boiling water to make 150 psi steam. When there was not enough heat in the reactor vapor to make 150 psi steam, the condenser was switched to a 30 psi header and then to atmosphere. You didn’t want to be up on the condenser deck when a condenser switched to atmosphere because the silencer was too small.

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Process Flow Diagram

The engineers produced a process flow diagram which was used to calculate material and energy balances for each stage of the process for one reactor, and to provide data for material flow rates for four reactors. The PFD is shown in Figure 2-1. The following material balance for one reactor is shown in the following table:

Table 2-1 Material Balance for One Reactor

Material

 

Flow

 

Density

 

Time

Amount

Metric

Steam for Heat

   

30

KPPH

   

0:20

10

KLb

4.5

Ton

Steam for Sparge

   

40

KPPH

   

0:30

20

KLb

9.1

Ton

Water Charge

 

1000

GPM

 

0.96

 

0:10

80

KLb

36.0

Ton

DMT Charge

800 GPM

 
  • 1.2 0:20

 

160

KLb

73.0

Ton

Vent to Flare

   

12

KPPH

   

0:10

 

2 KLb

0.9

Ton

Dump to Slurry

 

2200

GPM

 

0:10

  • 1.5 121.7 Ton

268

KLb

 

The Gantt chart four reactors over a two-hour cycle appears below:

 

Table 2-2 Gantt Chart for Four Reactors/2-Hour Cycle

 

Time

10

20

30

 

40

50

1:00

1:10

1:20

 

1:30

1:40

1:50

2:00

Reactor 1

Steam

Water

DMT

 

React

 

Cool

 

Dump

Reactor 2

end Cool

Dump

Steam

 

Water

DMT

React

 

Cool

Reactor 4

end React

Cool

Dump

Steam

 

Water

DMT

 

React

Reactor 4

DMT

React

Cool

 

Dump

Steam

 

Water

Combining the material balance for one reactor with the Gantt chart produces the overall material balance for one hour of operation:

Table 2-3 Overall Material Balance

Material

English

Metric

Accum Steam

60

KLb

  • 27.2 Ton

Accum Water

160

KLb

  • 72.0 Ton

Recycle Water

70

KLb

  • 32.0 Ton

BFW to Acc

150

KLb

  • 68.0 Ton

DMT

320

KLb

146.0

Ton

Flare Stack

 

4 KLb

1.8

Ton

Slurry Tank

536

KLb

243.4

Ton

Liquor

85

KLb

39.0

Ton

Methanol

15

KLb

  • 6.8 Ton

Dryer Vapor

21

KLb

  • 9.4 Ton

Dry TPA

430

KLb

195.0

Ton

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Plant design engineers and draftsmen chose locations for the vessels and added the details to support them, providing decks for human access and piping to connect them. A physical model was built to verify that everything would fit together and that maintenance would have access to maintainable equipment.

Instrumentation designers used the process flow diagram and physical model to locate and tag process control instruments. An instrument specification sheet was prepared for each tag on the drawing. A P&ID drawing was produced that showed all of the control functions (boxes or blocks) required to support the process sensors and actuators in order to provide the required process control. See Figure 2-2 for a sketch of an example. A loop sheet was prepared for every sensor tag that showed the loca- tion of wiring and junction boxes, along with calibration information. See Figure 2-3 for an example. If an operator reported trouble with FC1227 (the 27th tag on P&ID page 12), then Maintenance pulled the loop sheet for FT1227 in order to check it out. Any sequence or interlock logic was referenced to a separate diagram because this was regarded as a separate skill from designing or maintaining control loops.

Batch Design

Meanwhile, logic design engineers used the sequence required to process a batch of TPA to produce a list of process stages (called “steps” at that time):

  • 1. Verify that the reactor is ready from level, pressure and temperature sensors.

  • 2. Heat the massive vessel for 20 minutes with flow-controlled high-pressure steam.

  • 3. Charge a measured amount of hot water in 10 minutes; verify level, pres- sure, and temperature.

  • 4. Start the agitator at high speed.

  • 5. Add a measured amount of DMT to the reactor in 30 minutes.

  • 6. Agitate for 30 minutes; begin venting non-condensable poisonous gasses to the flare stack.

  • 7. Reduce agitator speed and start cooling along a temperature trajectory for 30 minutes.

  • 8. Drain the reactor.

A team of process, safety, and instrument engineers took this simple set of process stages and added things to do when something went wrong. They started with those things that might break a reactor, like hitting a hot reactor with cold water and vice versa. Overfilling a reactor would not be fatal because safety valves would relieve pressure, but there was a risk that someone would be in the area when a safety valve let go. Adding molten DMT with no agitation could result in a solid plug of DMT in the bottom of the reactor, making the dump valves useless. Cooling too fast would strain the reactor and the overhead condensers. Rate of cooling was controlled by the

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level of condensate in a condenser. No cooling occurred if the condenser tubes were flooded, so the rate at which condensate was removed controlled cooling.

Safety interlocks were designed by a group that was perhaps more paranoid than the optimistic control engineers. This was a high energy process capable of releasing poi- sonous gas as well as energy, so their job was not trivial. The interlocks varied during the processing of a batch of TPA. For example, the high level shutdown was lower for the water charge than it was for the DMT charge. The agitator had to be at high speed during DMT charging and low speed during cooling. State-sensitive interlocks were built that had simple integrated circuits, which were to be independent of the Digital Equipment PDP-11 that controlled the batch sequence.

This activity provided the data for the design of a computer program, along with a list of computer I/O points and their connections to physical process control equipment. Additional logic design was required for the process interlocks and for the fixed sequence for selecting the vent condenser steam header. A process interlock differs from a safety interlock in that it is good if it works (the computer hasn’t gotten lost), but not essential to protect people and equipment.

Each step was expanded in detail with reference to control equipment tags. The tags were generic in that the analysis was only done for one reactor procedure. The com- puter would handle substitution of the correct tags for the reactor to be run, a procedure called “aliasing tags.” Exception logic was designed to detect and handle hold, stop, and abort conditions. Then there was the problem of how to restart the computer while the process was running. On top of that, the existing DMT plant was all analog, untouched by computer control.

Each stage had sub-stages (each of which had process actions):

  • 1. Check that conditions are correct to perform this process stage.

  • 2. Perform any setup actions, like clearing a totalizer or setting modes, and start processing.

  • 3. Monitor process conditions and time, generate trajectory values as required, stop when done.

  • 4. Generate and log the report items for the stage.

  • 5. Check that conditions are correct to leave this stage.

One of the setup actions was to change targets in a program that ran continuously to handle the process interlocks. In particular, the pattern of valve positions that must be open or closed or could be ignored changed during the stage. The response to a failure was always the same—close all inlet valves and stop making changes. In other words, hold.

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Construction

When the process design was complete and approved, orders were placed for major equipment and ads were placed for operating personnel. Instrument spec sheets and logic design followed, and orders were placed for sensors, actuators and controllers, including the computer system. Operating personnel began training as plant con- struction started, the better to see how it all went together. Computer programs were coded and tested, then coded and tested again as changes rippled through the project.

Instrument installation and checkout is always on the critical path of a project. First comes the mechanical completion of the vessels, supports, and piping along with equipment like pumps and valves, which are part of piping. Once that milestone has been reached, then instruments can be mounted and checked out. If mechanical completion is late, top management is fully alert and turns its spotlight on the instru- ment department, which makes it difficult to conceal the normal screw-ups. The insulating crew is also turned loose after mechanical completion, making things more interesting.

When everything was physically ready to operate, water was run through the system to flush wrenches and lunchboxes out of the piping, along with drill chips and drawings. Any differential pressure instrument that was installed backwards was revealed. The TPA process required trial runs with hot water to see that nothing broke or leaked under pressure and that the cooling system worked as expected. The computer was allowed to control the second and subsequent hot water runs to flush out bugs in the programs.

Finally, the process was ready to turn over to Operations. After the first run with DMT, fine crystals of TPA plugged all of the instrument impulse lines. The capacitance level probes in the reactors did not survive agitation of the thicker product. All pressure instruments in the water loop that used impulse lines had to be replaced with flush diaphragm instruments. The delay was not welcome, except to the computer pro- grammers who were able to add enhancements whose need had become obvious when the process was run.

Fortunately, the reactor vessels had spare penetrations at the top and bottom. Two of these on each vessel were used to install differential pressure transmitters with flush diaphragms on six-inch extensions in order to measure level. There was concern that the agitated erosive slurry would wear through the lower diaphragms, and so tests had to be run to determine the rate of erosion. You can imagine the interactions between top management and the instrument department as the project overran the estimated cost and schedule.

After the startup difficulties were over, the process ran well for about ten years. Then it was closed down when a competitor developed a different process that made TPA directly with a one percent higher yield.

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Later in this book we will go deep into the details of batch process control. The point of this example is to show that there is much more to realizing a batch process than detailing the recipe and procedure.

Modular Design

The section “Analysis” earlier in this chapter discussed the usefulness of boundaries. A module is enclosed by a boundary, and contains the equipment or functions necessary to do a specific job. A module is most useful when it is used multiple times, but it is also useful for unique cases. A module only has to be designed and thoroughly tested once, which is a fine thing for FDA process validation. The operation of a module only has to be taught once, no matter how many times it is used in the process.

A physical module is a container for a set of parts, devices, and equipment, with a boundary that is crossed by input and output connections to those of other modules. An example is an automotive alternator. The input is a pulley that supplies mechan- ical power from a belt. The output is 13.7 volts DC, above a certain input speed. In between is a marvelous assembly of axles, bearings, wire coils, slip rings, magnetic pole pieces, rectifiers, and a voltage regulator circuit. To use the generator, we only need to know where to put the belt and where to get the DC power. It helps to know such catalog information as maximum ratings, but we don’t need to know what goes on inside the alternator module. That knowledge is only required to maintain the module. Another example of a physical module is a television set. Connect it to power and an antenna and a vast wasteland appears, full of people pushing products or promoting themselves.

An abstract module is defined by a boundary on a drawing of the contents. It has a defined interface in which lines representing information cross the boundary. Nothing enters or leaves the module without going through an interface. The module boundary is adjusted so that a minimum number of connections determine the behavior of the module. Each line in the interface has a specific behavior for a specific set of conditions at other lines. Think of the pins on an integrated circuit, the connec- tions to a home hot water heater, or the public data for a software module. A module may be copied and used in another location, using the same interfaces with the same functions. If the interfaces or behavior have to be modified in the new location, then the copy is not a copy but a different module.

For process control, a module is a closed box (not necessarily physical) that contains a fixed set of things that behave in predictable ways. It has interfaces at the sides of the box, like electrical connectors or pipes. The interfaces carry power, commands, and data into and out of the box. Every interface has defined behavior, so there is no need to guess what is inside the box. A box can be disconnected and replaced with another box of the same kind, perhaps one that has internal changes that improve cost or per- formance but do not change behavior. The box/module can be said to encapsulate a control function.

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Encapsulation is a lesson that can be learned from the evolution of computer pro- gramming. Back when 640 KB was enough for anybody, computer instructions allowed any running code to write any word in memory. Programmers needed pro- gramming rules to avoid stepping on each other. Even a single coder could forget where something was and write over it with another subroutine. Increasing computer capability required strong rules to prevent undesired interaction, which led to object- oriented programming (OOP). Basically, an OOP object contains methods and data that are only known to the object. This means that a subroutine and its data may be encapsulated so that no one who follows the rules can alter an object.

Anyone needing the services of an object must send a request to an exposed receiver. An analogy is a person with a telephone and a set of ledger books. The telephone number is public but the location is not. The only way to read or write a number in the books is to call the person and ask for it to be done. The person organizes the books in any suitable way; the caller does not need to know how it is done. If you sub- stitute “methods and data” for “person and books” then you have described an OOP object, which is very much like a module.

Pressure Control Example

The following is an example of a module that controls pressure in any process that can use it. A pressure control loop contains a sensor, controller, and valve, each requiring the knowledge of many details to understand how they work. The sensor must be compatible with the process and have the required range. The controller has to be connected to the sensor and valve, which may require wires and junction boxes or tubing and fittings. The valve has to have the proper size and pressure rating in order to have an adequate control range. Now encapsulate all of this control equipment into a module and define the external interfaces.

The pressure control module has two interfaces. The command interface carries com- mands to and status data from the module. This interface is used by whatever is operating the module. The command interface of the pressure control module has a setpoint and a mode as command inputs. These change the behavior of the module when either is changed. The new behavior is visible (or sensible) in status outputs from the command interface. The means of communication may be physical, where the operator turns a setpoint knob and moves a mode switch. Status is visible in the process value and valve position indicators. Digital communication allows com- mands to be entered and status to be displayed remotely.

The control interface has the connections that send commands from and bring status data to the module. This interface is used to hook up the process to the valve and sensor. Sensor and valve data may be plumbed, wired or digitally communicated to the control interface. Plumbing and wiring have a severely limited repertoire of status signals as compared to digital communication.

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The module will try to obey commands, but something below the control interface may prevent that. A command to set 90% pressure cannot be obeyed if the source is only at 85% pressure. The module may include malfunction alarms that are reported through the command interface.

A module built in this manner shields the user of the command interface from knowl- edge of the details of how the module does its job or what goes on at or below the control interface.

Of course, the sensor, controller, and valve are each a module. The pressure control module contains three instrument modules. Modules can contain modules in the same way that a Russian matrioshka doll contains nested dolls.

Function Blocks

Block diagrams are a way of designing with modules. A rectangle (block) representing the module shows the possible interface connections for inputs and outputs. Other blocks representing other modules with needed functions are added to the drawing, and the proper interfaces are made between blocks. A block diagram is similar to a PFD, but it shows the flow of control information instead of fluids. Block diagrams are also useful for designing the contents of process control modules using function blocks. A simple example is shown in Figure 2-4.

Introduction to Process Design and Construction 35 The module will try to obey commands, but something

Figure 2-4 Example of a Block Diagram

The term function block needs to be qualified. The word function as an adjective of block can mean a program designed to accomplish a specific function, or it can mean the data associated with an instance of a common function. Here, the noun block is a metaphor for a module, be it hardware or software, that contains data or a program. The adjective function is actually a process control function, elementary or complex, that has been defined as a block. It does not refer to a process function, such as charging or reacting.

Function blocks containing data are used to represent common control functions, such as PID, Ratio, Selector, and Device Control (for bistable devices like motors and

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block valves). The basic function that the block performs is mostly described by the name of the function. A function may have options whose function is not always clear without carefully reading the manual. Each kind (class) of data function block has a set of defined data that is put into each use (instantiation) of the block.

Several kinds of data are stored in the block. Identification data includes a unique tag name, similar to the tags used to define process locations. Some of the data is config- ured by the user (control engineer) to adapt the function for a particular use, such as the tag, input interfaces, option selections, and tuning constants. This data is not mod- ified by the program that uses the data in the block, so it is called “static” data. Some data may be changed by “executing” the block, but it must be remembered so that the block can be properly initialized after the processor restarts. It is called “non-volatile” data. The rest of the data is calculated by the function, but is stored in the block because it must persist from one execution to the next. It is called “dynamic” data.

The program that manipulates the data in a data function block is built into the com- puter’s operating system. The user cannot change it in any way. Naturally, this doesn’t cover everything that the user needs to do.

Function blocks that contain executable code allow the user to enter the instructions in one of several popular languages (see IEC 61131-3). The data to be processed appears at named inputs that correspond to variable names in the program. The results to be passed on to other blocks appear at named outputs. The block has no persistent data other than its unique identification and possibly the sources of its inputs. An unconnected input may be used to store a value that is needed for the next invocation of the block.

If the user is allowed to name a program function block as a class, then instances of it may be used without writing the code again for each use. This means that a change to the class program affects all instances of the class. Of course, all of the blocks must be in the same processor. The alternative is to copy the block to another location, but this will mean that changes to the code are local.

Either kind of function block may be used in a block diagram. They are all functions with connectable inputs and outputs. A good system does not involve the user in the connection process. Standards are necessary to make it possible to design good sys- tems. Anyone who has configured a DCS or perhaps a PLC has encountered function blocks. Anyone who has configured two different systems knows that more work is needed on the standards.

Summary

This chapter discussed some principles of process design that were used by the cen- tral engineering department of a medium-sized company thirty years ago and are still valid today. Well, except for the automation of all of the draftsmen. The principles were illustrated by an example of the construction of a batch process. A section on

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modular design introduced concepts required to understand the 88 series that are useful in designing all kinds of processes. Function blocks were also introduced as a specific kind of module.