Project Synopsis

Develop overall ethanol plant simulation models, spreadsheets, and visual basic programming tools to improve the efficiency and accuracy of process design packages for new plant designs and ultimately yield a complete process design package essentially “at the push of a button” - Video Demonstration

Project Summary

Ethanol Plant Simulation and Process Design Package Automation

The client is a provider of whole-plant (greenfield) ethanol production technologies.  Process Engineering Associates (PROCESS) was contracted by the client to develop overall plant models utilizing PROCESS' licensed commercial computer process simulation software, Chemstations’ CHEMCAD, Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, and visual basic programming tools to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the client’s process design packages.  Results from these plant models are utilized in a process design package program that incorporates the results of the plant models with PFDs, P&IDs, equipment data sheets, and other process-specific documentation to yield a complete process design package essentially “at the push of a button”. 

PROCESS performed the following tasks in support of this project:

  • Worked with the client’s process engineers to model the client’s ethanol plants (two different plant models) using CHEMCAD process simulation software.  The various processes in the overall plant models included: fermentation, distillation, dehydration, centrifugation, evaporation, drying and thermal oxidation, and vent gas scrubbing.
  • Modeled individual process areas in separate simulations and connected the overall plant models via CHEMCAD’s Meta Unit unit operations.  This provides the client flexibility in designing and modeling their plants by making model construction modular and allowing the client to add, remove, and change simulations for specific areas of the plant (e.g., the client can delete the dryer area or select between different evaporation models).
  • In Excel spreadsheets, PROCESS built user input boxes, heat and material balance stream tables, heat and material balance check calculations, tank, pump, column, and heat exchanger process summary tables, as well as summary tables for pump, column, and heat exchanger design data that are used in creating equipment data sheets.
  • Utilized visual basic for applications (VBA) programming tools to allow:  
    • Client/plant specific data (compositions, capacities, process configurations, etc.) to be loaded into the CHEMCAD models from Excel
    • Running of the overall plant or area specific models from Excel without having to open a CHEMCAD window
    • Outputting of data from the CHEMCAD models to Excel via VBA dialog boxes without having to open a CHEMCAD window
    • Automated formatting of the program outputs to provide consistent and high-quality data presentation

Development and implementation of these plant models and computer techniques have automated much of the process design package generation process, thereby significantly decreasing the time required to produce process design deliverables and improving the accuracy of these deliverables by greatly decreasing the amount of manually-transferred data.

PROCESS also assisted the client with client-specific process design package preparation by performing numerous model runs and producing heat and material balance package outputs.

Industry Type

  • Alternative Fuels
  • Process Technology Providers

Utilized Skills

  • Process design automation
  • Process design simplification
  • Advanced process simulation interface design
  • Greenfield plant design simulation

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