Virtually Simulating the Next Generation of Clean Energy Technologies

NETL's AVESTAR Center Is Dedicated to the Safe, Reliable and Efficient Operation of Advanced Energy Plants With Carbon Capture

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With support from NETL's Regional University Alliance (, the AVESTAR Center is also enhancing graduate and undergraduate engineering education in process dynamics, control, and safety. Students and researchers at West Virginia University are using the IGCC simulator to learn how large-scale energy plants respond dynamically to changes in manipulated inputs, as well as how control systems impact plant performance, stability and robustness.

To further leverage the AVESTAR facilities and simulators, NETL and its university partners are also pursuing an innovative and collaborative R&D program. In the area of IGCC process control, AVESTAR researchers are developing enhanced strategies for regulatory PID control and coordinated plant-wide control, including gasifier and gas turbine lead, as well as advanced process control using model predictive control (MPC) techniques. Other AVESTAR R&D focus areas include high-fidelity equipment modeling using partial differential equations, dynamic reduced order modeling, optimal sensor placement and 3D virtual plant simulation. 

What's in the Future for AVESTAR?

In the next phase of the training program, AVESTAR will incorporate Invensys Operations Management's EYESIM software to add 3D immersive virtual reality to the training experience ( The EYESIM solution extends training beyond the control room, allowing the field operator to perform manual functions, such as opening or closing a valve or starting or stopping a pump, from anywhere within the IGCC plant.

Wearing a stereoscopic headset or eyewear, trainees enter a virtual environment that allows them to move freely throughout the simulated 3D facility to study and learn various aspects of IGCC plant operation, control and safety. Using gamepads for navigation, trainees can interact with plant equipment items (e.g., gasifier in Figure 3), activate transparent views (e.g., liquid level in a tank), display pop-up trends (e.g., gas turbine combustor temperature over time), and experience equipment sound effects (e.g., pump engines), malfunctions (e.g., leak in Figure 4), and visual training scenarios (e.g., distillation column operation in Figure 5).

Figure 4: Gas leak in sulfur recovery section of IGCC immersive training system
 Gas Leak Simulation


Combined control room and field operator instruction allows for realistic training without compromising worker, equipment and environmental safety. It also better prepares operators and engineers to manage the plant closer to constraints while minimizing or avoiding the impact of any potentially harmful, wasteful or inefficient events. Additional benefits include improved communication and collaboration among work crews, off-line evaluations of procedures and training for safety-critical tasks.

Figure 5: Transparent view of distillation column operation with animation of vapor flow and liquid holdup on trays 
 Distillation Simulation


NETL and its partners plan to continue building the AVESTAR portfolio of dynamic simulators, immersive training systems and advanced research capabilities to satisfy industry's growing need for training and experience with the operation and control of high-efficiency, near-zero emission energy plants. To learn more about the center and training capabilities, visit the AVESTAR website at

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