Control Valve Simulation

How to simulate the designs of an automation and control project for a water treatment process, before putting them into operation.

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“Ask the Experts” is moderated by Béla Lipták, editor of the Instrument Engineer’s Handbook . In this column, he and other experienced process control engineers welcome questions concerning process measurement and control and optimization. If you are qualified and would like to be on our expert team, please send us your resume. Process control-related questions should be accompanied by P&ID sketches using ISA symbols.

Q: I’m developing an automation and control project for a water treatment process. I would like simulate the designs before putting them into operation. For that reason, I need a model for simulating control valves (proportional). It doesn’t need to be a high-level simulation. I only need to build a kind of block with two inputs and two outputs (a MIMO system). Those inputs are the incoming water flow and the signal from the controller (0%-100%). The outputs are the outgoing water flow and the valve position (0%-100%). It sounds simple, but doing it using Simulink (from Matlab) could be complex. At the university, I used to go for Simulink in order to get simulations for controlling electronic systems, but I have never carried out sims for hydraulic models. (I also need the fuzzy blocks of Simulink). I know of software like Hysys or Fluidsim... but I don’t need such a level of reality in my simulations and I haven´t got the money to buy them.

Valve Configuration Parameter
I’ll set the PID flow setpoints for the control valves with a Fuzzy Inference Machine. It’s really important to carry out the simulations in order to realize that the system won’t oscillate.

I already had read your article, “How to Select Control Valves, Parts 1, 2, 3” and I could finally understand many concepts relative to control valves. I would like that you advise me about how to build this simulation block in the simplest way so that four signals can interact between them?

From your article I understand that Gv is a constant, Gv = [Δflow/Δ%], but I couldn’t understand how to operate the input signals inside the block!

How do you mathematically modify the “admission flow area” inside the valve body according to the signal from controller without multiplying the incoming flow signal and convert the valve in a kind of signal flow amplifier?

Christian Casas Buitrago
Occidental de Colombia, Inc.

A: As I understand it, you want to get a general approximation of a control valve operating in a flow loop, but you do not need the precision and detailed accuracy required by simulation programs such as Simulink, Hysis or Fluidsim, nor do you wish to incur the costs of those rather expensive programs.

PC-ControLAB 3, a process control loop training and simulation program, is intended primarily for use in training seminars. It permits users to practice controller tuning and to view the behavior of various types of control loops, including feedback, feed-forward, ratio, cascade, override and decoupling. Of immediate interest to you, however, is the process model building program that comes with PC-ControLAB. Using a function-block oriented program it is extremely simple to graphically configure a process model that resembles a real process.

The control valve is configured by two function blocks: One block simulates the valve actuator, and another block simulates the hydraulic characteristics of the valve body itself. The first function block permits setting characteristics of the actuator—dead band, stick-slip and whether or not it has a positioner. The second function block permits setting features of the valve itself, such as maximum Cv, equal percent or linear valve. External inputs to this block permit setting the system pressure drop and pressure drop ratio.

PC-ControLAB 3 sells for $495 for a single-user license, and is available either through Wade Associates, Inc. or through ISA. You can download a demonstration version of the program from

Because of the many features of this program, I think you would find it useful to your career in many areas beyond your immediate problem. If you have additional questions, please contact me.

Harold Wade
Wade Associates, Inc.

A: I have great appreciation for simulating a process to gain understanding of the process control dynamics. The problem is always to develop a model which is as close to reality as is needed. A simple static model can provide information for a steady-state system, but is of little value for discovering dynamic response and predicting control issues.

Valve flow = (Co, Positioner dynamics, pressure difference, valve characteristic, piping and pump characteristics, fluid density, (and sometimes Reynolds Number), valve dynamic response and response to step inputs. Co = controller output signal. See The Instrument Engineer’s Handbook for these topics and references to the applicable standards.

In modeling dynamic systems I have sometimes found it valuable to cycle through the calculations a number of times until the numbers settle out and converge before moving to the next step in time. The time constants in process control systems often differ greatly in size and make a “stiff” system. The computer does not mind the extra arithmetic. Don’t forget any significant time lost in the control system.

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