"The outcome was an improvement in process economics of tens of millions of euros per year -- the result of losing two distillation columns, just one of which had capital and operational costs of €5 million/yr," he notes.
PSE also is finding increasing customer interest in using dynamic modeling to reduce the size of flare systems needed and minimize use of expensive alloys for low-temperature operation -- enabling significant cuts in capital cost.
"The current steady-state techniques widely used can lead to gross over-design. It is now possible to perform dynamic capacity analyses for revamps that can demonstrate that the required capacity already exists -- where steady-state analyses showed that a new flare line was required -- saving millions of dollars," Matzopoulos stresses.
The company carries out a lot of work with customers on new process development, all the way from laboratory experimentation to detailed equipment design and full plant optimization. "The earlier model-based engineering techniques are applied, the greater the economic benefit in terms of accelerating innovation and development, reducing technology risk, and in designing plants with better economic performance -- Repsol being a case in point," he adds.
Debottlenecking also is becoming a watchword in more general processing sectors such as foods, pharmaceuticals and consumer goods, to which many modeling tools traditionally don't cater. "One of the biggest innovators out there is Procter & Gamble. We developed gSolids in collaboration with the company and this is a step change when it comes to modeling solid flows around the flowsheet. Drying is also a big issue in these operations, so optimization of recycle flows to minimize equipment size and energy costs is another important area where millions of dollars per year can be saved."
It's a similar story with gCrystal, which optimizes crystallization processes. "Here we are usually dealing with batch processes in which we can halve the batch time -- so double the throughput -- by optimizing cooling curves, for example," notes Matzopoulos.
Seán Ottewell is Chemical Processing's Editor at Large. You can e-mail him at email@example.com.