Process and operations control management specialist BluESP has renewed its yearly service agreement with a local refinery following the client’s decision to maintain its relationship with the company to ensure that the benefits achieved using BluESP’s advance process control (APC) technology continue.
APC is a software technology that comprises a set of tools and techniques that are designed to facilitate the operation, control and automation requirements for plant optimisation.
“As a result of our technology, service and support, the refinery processes have been improved . . . to increase throughput, reduce the company’s overall carbon footprint by limiting emissions, and improve the quality of the end-products,” says BluESP chief engineer Dr Kevin Brooks.
APC, which was traditionally developed for and adopted by the petrochemicals sector, has become an industry standard for petrochemicals and chemicals companies, predominantly because of its ability to improve the overall management of a multitude of diverse, interrelated intricate processes, he notes.
He mentions that, in the petrochemicals industry, the type of APC technology used is model predictive control, which uses software to map out the course for a refinery or plant to determine which operational decisions are needed to ensure optimum efficiency.
The form of process control incorporates numerous tests results and collates data to build complex plant models that demonstrate how each process works. This essentially creates a virtual plant which enables engineers to manipulate outcomes by changing plant variables.
Brooks notes that the company’s products are developed by American software company AspenTech, and that BluESP has been the preferred implementation partner for AspenTech software since its formation in 2007.
“BluESP solutions predominantly use AspenDMC+, which was the first – and remains the most used, in terms of global installed capacity – APC product.”
Brooks notes that ever since the mid-1980s – when APC was first introduced – APC technology has been ubiquitous within the broader chemicals sector and, as such, the market is saturated. Moreover, most companies, particularly large multinationals, prefer to implement in-house process management solutions.
These two factors have led to BluESP’s diversifying into other industrial process control applications, especially mining and minerals processing applications. This has proved to be an inspired decision and has been one of the main drivers for the company’s success and growth.
Brooks notes that the company has in the last year been involved in multiphase projects for a multinational base metals mining company headquartered in Australia as well as a platinum producer based in Rustenburg, in the North West province.
BluESP is one of the only companies that has introduced and implemented APC solutions in the mining sector, and specifically the mineral processing sector, which used to be regarded as too diverse and variable to control.
Brooks remarks that, despite its continued growth in other sectors, the relative stagnation of the South African chemicals sector – which has been further impacted on by a depressed global economy and miniscule economic growth locally – has limited the amount of process management work available within the sector, adding that most work nowadays pertains to service maintenance and technical support.
However, Brooks notes that BluESP will strive to maintain its current working relationships and will continue to support its clients in the chemicals sector, ensuring that the benefits derived from its service are firstly maintained, and then surpassed.