Immersive Simulation Solution Optimizes Engineering, Operations and Training

Aug. 14, 2012
One of the benefits of creating and using a simulated virtual plant is that, once the model is built, users can walk through any plant scenario and experience its consequences, using it to make better decisions on how to manage abnormal or risky situations.

Automation vendor Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS, allowed users to walk through a demonstration of an immersive simulation environment at its Honeywell Users Conference in Phoenix this summer. HPS has partnered with Virthualis s.r.l, an Italian engineering and research firm focused on improving decision-making in the design and implementation of safety systems, to develop a 3D simulation environment to enhance process industry operator training and plant safety.

Virthualis has consolidated experience in process and safety engineering, enabling it to develop solutions providing health, safety and environmental (HSE) improvements in a typical industrial operation. Its 3D simulation technology and application tools are called MindSafe. MindSafe integrates with Honeywell’s UniSim Operations Suite R400 process simulator to create “a holistic virtual environment” that can be used to efficiently design, analyze, and verify plant operations, as well as prepare operation teams for safe, reliable and efficient operations.

The MindSafe solution, which includes modules for safety management, accident analysis and risk assessment, capitalizes on a six-year, multi-million-Euro research and development project funded by the European Commission.

“Honeywell now provides an even stronger engineering and training solution that can bridge the competency gap across plant departments,” said a spokesman. “The fusion of Honeywell and Virthualis technologies enhances our overall simulation capabilities with additional expertise and a 3D learning environment. The system can be utilized to perform both engineering studies and emergency response training.”

While UniSim models precisely what happens inside the pipe work and process equipment, Virthualis' 3D technology and accident simulation does the same for the external environment. This creates realistic, interactive scenarios that respond to changing conditions. The heat from a simulated fire, for example, influences pressures and other conditions in pipes and equipment, which in turn can create leaks and other hazards requiring response.

MindSafe embeds Axim, a real-time, detailed first-principles accident simulator, and Performex, a real-time human performance assessor. It allows users to experience—in a highly realistic manner—nominal and critical plant conditions to help them quickly learn how to make the right decisions to control safety, prevent accidents, manage emergencies, and improve maintenance.

The tool also enables plant and corporate managers to ground potential decisions in realistic experiments and objective data, in order to better manage changes and increase operation readiness. The solution can also be used to collaborate with authorities, insurance carriers and others.

The entire plant simulator, MindSafe and UniSim combined, is made up of two separate rooms: the Control Room, which replicates the plant control center, and the Field Room(s), which replicates the process field. Control room operators perform their duties in a physical replica of their real control room (furniture included), while field operators are immersed in a realistic 3D reproduction of their own field environment. The MindSafe engineering infrastructure, allowing the simultaneous interaction of crewmembers, links the two physical rooms.

The Virthualis-Honeywell joint solution can be viewed in a permanent demo room that has been set-up at the Solvay Information Services site in Milan, Italy. 

>> Click here to read Automation World's in-depth coverage on simulation software: Dynamic Process Call for Virtual Plant Technology

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