Converging Process Engineering Simulation Design Tools

By Peter Reynolds

Technology Trends

The most significant opportunity to positively influence the design of an industrial process is in the early conceptual stages of the project, but more importantly, in managing the iterations between conceptual design, pre-FEED (front-end process engineering simulation design) and during FEED or detailed design. Engineering design projects that allow the simultaneous collaboration across engineering disciplines have the highest chance to optimize the design. Most projects use a rigid set of engineering processes and follow a standard waterfall approach to project design. The problem with this approach is – each discipline adds a certain degree of cautiousness and safety margin into the design. Often, by the time project teams realize sub-optimal models, it is too late to make changes without a significant financial or schedule penalty.

Process Engineering Simulation
Source is Aveva

Converging Process Engineering Simulation

For process facilities, the physical design and process design have been completely separate and distinct, and will only typically come together during major project milestones or stage gates. Engineering tools generally fall into two categories: 1. Process engineering simulation and 2. Engineering design tools (EDT) for plant design and infrastructure. The combined market for the infrastructure, power, process, and marine domains includes a significant portion of everything that is built in the world today. This includes buildings, ships, offshore bridges, city infrastructure, roads & highways, rail transportation, electrical power generation & grids, industrial manufacturing plants, mining facilities, utility infrastructure, oil & gas facilities, and chemical and other process industry plants. Unfortunately, process and detailed engineering disciplines do not “speak” the same language. For example, a simulation flow diagram is not a process flow diagram (PFD). A PFD is not a piping & instrumentation diagram (P&ID); a unit operation is not a piece of equipment. A stream is not a pipe, and a column stage is not a tray or a section of packing. For process simulation engineering, there are typically many operating “cases” for one piece of equipment. Equipment types and plant topology change during the process design. Many asset owners recognize the value of improving this discontinuous engineering workflow but with the understanding that project risk must also be managed.

Sequential to Simultaneous Engineering

The “platforming” of process engineering simulation tools is helping engineers create reusable workflows and automate data authoring in a broader platform for simulation. The new work processes created enable people to focus on more value-adding activities and shortening the time needed to design and optimize by moving from sequential to simultaneous engineering.

In a scenario where models and platforms were to drive engineering activities and workflow, what if engineering had one design tool, instead of two or three that could be used throughout the plant lifecycle? What if we could have multiple engineers working on the same model at the same time? What if we could use the simulation to drive the process rather than have the process drive the simulation model. While process simulation has used either a 2D flow-sheet style or uses computational styles, there is no reason, in the future, that process simulation could combine with EDT/BIM and become 3D process simulations. If the economics of creating agility between physical and process disciplines are real, then the process engineering simulation and the engineering design tool will be impacted.

ARC is closely following the recent merger of AVEVA with Schneider Electric (SimSci) which represents a pivotal departure from both markets, which to date have been separate and distinct. For more information about the engineering simulation market dynamics and changing engineering process please refer to the ARC Study.

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