#1460 - Distillation Process Control

Course Objective

Over 95% of the separation processes used in the refining and petrochemical industries are based on distillation, and therefore, distillation is the most common unit operation in these industries.  The economic importance of distillation control is clear because distillation control directly affects product quality, production rates, and utility usage.  Distillation control is challenging because of its inherent nonlinearity, substantial coupling, and the fact that it is often required to absorb severe disturbances.  Moreover, many operating companies are not fully utilizing their distillation columns due to a number of column control problems ranging from maintenance problems with control valves and sensors, to more challenging problems with selecting and implementing the proper control configuration.  In addition, in many cases the proper tuning of existing controllers can result in substantial distillation performance improvements.

This course is designed to provide the attendees with the necessary skills to recognize and solve the full range of problems associated with distillation control in order to maximize the economic performance of these units.

Who Should Attend

All those working in the petrochemical, oil, and gas process industries with a need to understand distillation operations and control.  Process engineers and process professionals associated with distillation operations will benefit the most from this training course.

Course Description

The course starts with the fundamentals of distillation operation and control and build the skill base needed to develop a command of advanced distillation topics such as configuration selection, constraint control, and model predictive control.

This course emphasizes the economic importance of distillation control, and provides an overview of distillation operations and hardware.  The actuator and sensor systems used on columns will be described and proper performance characteristics provided, which can be used to troubleshoot distillation regulatory control systems.  The primary emphasis of this course will be on the application of advanced PID controls to distillation columns, the selection of proper control configuration for a column, and tuning regulatory and product composition control loops.  Finally, an overview introduction of model predictive control (e.g., Dynamic Matrix Control) applied to distillation columns will be presented.

Training Objectives/Key Benefits

Upon completion of this course, participants will:

Course Logistics

Participants will receive a course notebook and an electronic copy of the simulation software used in the tuning exercises.  Participants will need a laptop computer with MS Excel in order to run the simulation software for the tuning exercises.  There will be time at the end of each day to address questions and provide additional explanations for the material covered that day.

Daily Course Outline


Day 1


Fundamentals of Distillation Operations

Distillation Hardware

Distillation Control Hardware

Regulatory Control Loops

Day 2

Advanced PID Control for Distillation Columns

Configuration Selection

Configuration Selection Case Studies

Day 3

Controller Tuning

Simulation In-Class Exercises

Simulation In-Class Exercises

Advanced Distillation Control Topics

Day 4 (half day)

An Overview of Model Predictive Control Applied to Distillation Columns


What this course does not offer

This course will not be taught with respect to a specific type of DCS although specific issues associated with a DCS can be addressed.  This course will not provide an in-depth coverage of model predictive control.

Course Duration - Approximately 3-1/2 days