A Student-Led Upgrade at the Industrial Combustion and Gasification Research Facility

An upgraded, integrated control center supports onsite as well as remote monitoring.

The Industrial Combustion and Gasification Research Facility (ICGRF) at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City provides students with hands-on experience with automation systems and process units used in the oil, gas, coal and utility industries.

Just some of the types of research that takes place there include investigating underground thermal treatment of coal and oil shale for the production of gaseous and liquid fuels; examining CO2 capture combustion technologies, including oxygen combustion, gasification and chemical looping combustion; and identifying fuel switching and combustion of multiple fuel blends.

Process equipment to perform this research includes entrained and fluidized bed gasifiers, grate-fired and oxy-fuel combusters, a circulating fluidized bed reactor, chemical looping systems, diesel engines, fire test facilities and process heaters.

Through the years, as the ICGRF grew, so, too, did its need for improved control systems. A plant-wide automation system had become necessary, so operators and research engineers could control, monitor and coordinate all equipment and processes from a central location. Seven separate automation systems and 1,360 total I/O points needed to come together.

Seizing this opportunity as a learning experience in itself, the ICGRF called on four students—none of whom had previous experience with instrumentation and controls¬¬—to execute the upgrade.

Learn how the students approached the challenge, and the lessons applicable when commercial facilities are dealing with their own islands of automation.

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