When Schneider Electric unveiled SimSci SimCentral for Process Utilities earlier this year, it provided a way for process engineers in oil and gas, refining, utility and chemical industries to streamline process utility design, collaborate for process improvement and simplify modeling complexity. Engineers could reduce time and cost and accelerate process simulation and design.
There’s perhaps not a better way to show just how fast and simple SimCentral is than by having a fresh college graduate, just a few months into a new job at Fluor, demonstrate the impact of SimCentral on her engineering workflow—in just two weeks, with no previous training, relying primarily on the tool’s help function as her partner.
Fluor’s Lei Lei Liu did just that this week at Schneider Electric’s Innovation Summit: Software Conference 2017 in San Antonio, Texas. The base case was a steady-state design of a cooling water system, which was then used to develop hydraulic modeling as well. “Historically, we as process engineers have used separate tools to develop steady-state design models and hydraulic models,” Liu said. “SimCentral can do both. It integrates hydraulic calculations into steady-state design models.”
To develop the steady-state design model, Liu defined the topology by dragging models onto the canvas from the model library. She worked in process mode, which performs flow-driven steady-state calculations to create and improve process design.
Learning along the way, Liu realized she had to switch from process mode to fluid flow mode to help her with pipe sizes. “I was realizing that the simulation was still using the previous value for inner pipe diameter instead of the one specified, so I had to switch to fluid flow mode,” she said. “When I switched back to process mode, the value was written in as a specification. It also changed pressure drops across valves. Before, I was inputting just a typical pressure drop; now it gives me a more realistic one.”
Liu then used a model editor to improve the calculations of the hydraulic model—adding and editing parameters, conditions, variables, models, equations, etc. For her case study, she wanted to add in pressure-flow relation for pressure drop calculations in the heat exchanger model. She also easily added in pump curves from the vendor and then used a curve editor to define and modify curve types to establish dependencies between variables.
With SimCentral, Liu has been able to easily evaluate alternative scenarios by building a new steady-state design model from the existing base case, she said. “It’s easier to just take the steady-state design model, unclose the loop and input a new flow rate,” she added.
In the evaluation of a turndown case, Liu wanted to be able to look at the pressure drops caused by a compressor train being turned off. An Excel add-in feature, which enables two-way communication between SimCentral and Excel, helped with this task.
Schneider Electric continues to apply improvements to SimCentral and its other SimSci products. “In this agile process development cycle that we have, we really plan short term,” said Norbert Jung, vice president of process design for Schneider Electric, making the point that the enhancements presented by the Schneider Electric team today would come quickly.
The idea behind SimCentral is to replace lots of different point solutions. “To address the whole lifecycle, we’re providing different modes and different libraries in a single product,” said Cal Depew, SimCentral product manager.
With the current platform aimed at process utilities, a version 2.0 targeting the chemicals market is scheduled for release this month. Enhancements include stream and pipe connections, and equipment models such as distillation column, additional thermodynamic methods, and NRTL support for custom component data. Another upgrade is planned for end of 2017, as well as several other upgrades during 2018, with enhancements that are expected to target design optimization, gas processing and refining industries.
Enhancements are frequent as customers suggest improvements along the way. “The timeline is customer-driven,” Depew said. “Early adopters will drive us appropriately.”
Don’t think that all the efforts are going into the new SimCentral platform, however. More enhancements continue to be added to existing flagship products as well, based on customer requests, emphasized Marina Velasquez, product manager for PRO/II Process Engineering.
As a demonstration of that, Velasquez showcased some of the latest enhancements of those flagship products. A key upgrade is the extension of capabilities into the cloud. All process design products will be cloud-enabled, she said, starting with PRO/II and DynSim. “We see more and more applications, and we may move other products into cloud like VisualFlare and PipePhase,” she added.
Other enhancements include:
- Reactor modeling: Reactor models are accessible directly from PRO/II (starting with FCC)
- Basic engineering: Integration to Basic Engineering Database (Intergraph)
- Cost estimation: Integration to Cleopatra (cost engineering) for conceptual cost estimation
2016 was focused primarily on basic stability improvements of the system—trying to make sure it worked well with every version of Windows, for example. “Now, in 2017, we can really dedicate to add new features and capabilities,” Velasquez said.
New enhancements include databank updates, column improvements, reporting improvements and new plot capabilities, with several other updates planned for 2018 and beyond.