2011 ExperTune User Conference

Battling two rush hours is no picnic, expecially when most of Milwaukee's roads are being rebuilt. However, it was well worth journeying up from Chicago on Wednesday because I got to feast on an excellent series of user and expert presentations at the 2011 ExperTune User Conference at the Marriot Miilwaukee West in Pewaukee, WI, a few miles west of downtown.

The keynote was delivered by venture capitalist Gabe Rosica, Foxboro's former VP and GM, who starting off by saying that, "Bad economies only take down bad companies," and that, "Being able to run fast is no good if you're going in the wrong direction." However, he added that many companies are so focused on short-term financial results and so unwilling to risk them that they often sacrifice their longer-term success and survival.

"Engineers can see technological changes coming ahead of time because they're curious and think about them, but management often pats them on the head and says, "Go back to your nuts and bolts.' So, many engineers need to dig in and push for change even though it's risky and they'll definitely win some and lose some."

D.H. Lee, owner of APST Inc., reported that several of Korea's major process firms, such as Hanwa Chemical and Homan Petrochecmical, are using ExperTune's PlantTriage software to improve and optimize operations --often saving as much as 2-4% on their energy costs. For example, Lee recently helped implement PlantTriage V.9 at OS Caltex's alkylation unit, and it first established a baseline by assessing control loops and improving PID logic and tuning, and then used performance monitoring and processoptimization functions to calculate potential profits. "We also became friends with the operations guys, solved some of their more trivial issues, listeined to their ideas, and included them as project members," says Lee.

Over three months, OS Clatex used PlantTriage to reduce the unit's alkylate RVP variation, stabilize several other key performance indicators (KPIs), improve process conditions and product quality, and reduce steam usage but still make 1.9% more alkylate.

Tom Kinney, Invensys Operations Management's solutions developer, reported how his firm worked with Abu Dhabi Gas Liquification Co. (ADGAS) at Das Island in the Persian Gulf to minimize traditionally variable and inconsistent fuel gas system flaring levels. ADGAS and Invensys first installed PlantTriage to identify valves that needed to be fixed and loops that needed to be tuned, and then implemented an advanced process control (APC) approach using quadratic calculations to better match gas supply with demand from the application's boilers. PlantTriage helped ADGAS reduce its former gas flare burn off rate of 5.5-6 million cubic feet per day by half, and the APC solution cut it in half again for a total reduction of about 84% that was worth about $3 million per year. "My advice is to do both because PlantTriage can help other tools provide additional benefits," adds Kinney. "These two technologies gave us more benefits than either could have done alone."

And, these were just the successes reported before lunch, so you can why I think ExperTune's event was worth the drive. I will report on the presentations after lunch a bit later.