Exploring the Potential of Spreadsheet-Simulation Interfaces

PROCESS has advanced the use of CHEMCAD process simulation software by creating visual basic (VBA) linking to Excel spreadsheets for process model inputs and outputs. This means that anyone (operators, accountants, production managers, etc.) can now harness the power of a plant simulation without having to learn how to use the program. The inputs are simply entered into Excel and a low cost “run time” version of the simulation software runs in the background. The results are output in user defined formats.

Ways these tools can help design and optimize your operation:

New Plant Investor

  • Evaluate the profitability and product quality based on predicted or worst case changes in the process (changes in feedstock composition, raw material price changes, utility price fluctuations, etc.)
  • Use the model to easily demonstrate the plant operation to potential capital investors in a powerful, simple, and realistic manner.

Technology Provider or EPC Engineering Design

  • Significantly reduces process design package development time when designing similar plants for multiple locations.
  • Almost eliminates manual data entry and lessens the opportunity for human errors.
  • Model individual process areas separately and link them. This provides flexibility and allows the client to add, remove, and change specific areas of the plant without changing the entire plant simulation.
  • Fast alternatives case evaluation tool that allows the mass and energy balance to conform to different design conditions, e.g., to size vent lines for a worst case vapor flow scenario that may be different than normal production.
  • Allows utilization of less experienced engineers to enter process inputs into spreadsheets and output equipment specification sheets without having to use simulation software.
  • Correctly formatted, high-quality data sheet outputs. View Sample Pump DatasheetSample Heat Exchanger Data Sheet
  • Improved deliverable accuracy and consistency.

Existing Plant Operations

  • All knowledge specific to the process can be captured in the simulation for future reference, i.e., actual process data or lab data for temperature-dependent physical properties, vapor-liquid equilibrium, reactor rate data, etc. can be regressed into the model and used in the simulation calculations so the model reflects real operating experience.  Over time, the model becomes the repository of information that reflects process expertise without having to rely on in-house experts who may someday leave unexpectedly or retire.
  • The user can run quick optimization and sensitivity studies to determine how certain inputs affect the mass flows and energy usage throughout the entire plant.
  • Input real time cost factors (feedstock prices, changes in feed quality, utilities cost, etc.) and output an accurate predicted profitability margin. Juggle your operating parameters and product mix to maximize your profits.
  • Easily change operating parameters (feed compositions, tower pressure, cooling water temperature, etc.) and see what the effects are on your process (product yield, product composition, throughput, etc.).
  • Allows corporate groups (operations management, sales, marketing, etc.) to evaluate economic impacts of product mixes prior to embarking on sales campaigns.
  • Use of the simple spreadsheets provides operations engineer and operator ‘what-if’ scenario training.
  • Get the power of long-term process simulation use at greatly reduced cost.

Environmental Management

  • Summarize and tabulate waste stream or process vent information quickly and accurately.
  • Use the simulation to easily predict changes in waste streams based on changes in feed or operating conditions, e.g., predict the new wastewater loading and composition based on proposed process changes.
  • Powerful incident or ‘what-if’ evaluation tool that allows the mass and energy balance to conform to different operating upset conditions, e.g., quickly iterate what the process was doing to predict vapor release quantities based on a recorded maximum outlet temperature on a gas scrubber.