APC Improves Energy Efficiency

Fertilizer producer improves process in key areas through advanced process control, and integrates more operator knowledge into control strategy.


Gulf Petrochemical Industries Co. (GPIC), is a major fertilizer company located in Sitra, Bahrain, that uses the country’s large reserves of natural gas as a feedstock for manufacturing ammonia, urea, and methanol. This fertilizer producer sought to improve processes in key areas, and integrate more operator knowledge into control strategy.

The company was formed in December 1979 as a joint venture between Gulf Cooperation Council member states and is equally owned by the Kingdom of Bahrain, Saudi Basic Industries Corp., and Petrochemical Industries Co., Kuwait. GPIC has worked at being an excellent corporate citizen, and developed high quality standards of performance, particularly by sustainability measures. The company’s management systems are certified to the ISO-9001:2000 quality standard, ISO-14001 environmental standard and Occupational Health and Safety Management System’s OHSAS-18001 standard.

Competitive advantage

The ammonia production unit turns out 400,000 tons per year, primarily for agriculture. Ammonia has many uses, but it is a commodity, so controlling production costs is critical to retaining profitability in competitive markets. GPIC was seeking ways to make its production more stable and reduce energy consumption per ton of product.

“In today’s times of recession, it is critical to find some sort of competitive advantage that also falls in line with your larger business goals,” says Abdul Rehman Jawahery, general manager, GPIC. “We wanted to find ways of gaining competitive advantage by using innovative technologies that have a holistic effect on our people, plant, and processes.”

Jawahery and his engineering team approached Honeywell Process Solutions to see if using advanced process control (APC) could achieve this aim and increase production as part of the effort. The two companies studied the situation together and concluded that there was indeed potential for improvement. Ammonia plant operation deals with complex interaction of several process parameters, but since the plant operations were fairly stable and well managed already, GPIC and Honeywell engineers conducted a benefits study and worked on a partnership model to implement an APC strategy.

GPIC selected Honeywell’s Profit Controller technology, a multivariable control and optimization application well suited to complex and highly interactive industrial processes. Moving from conceptual design to commissioning took less than four months and Honeywell was able to demonstrate significant quantitative and qualitative changes to GPIC. The new system included:

• Implementation of APC strategies;
• Tools to design, implement, and maintain multiple input/multiple output applications to help drive processes for a direct economic benefit;
• Profit Stepper, an integrated tool that feeds into Profit Controller to provide data collection, automated testing, data visualization, and online identification of dynamic modules;
• Lab update module;
• Five-year ongoing agreement for services and support to extend the life of the platform and provide a cost-effective path to the latest updates.

“Honeywell engineers showed good knowledge about ammonia process and commitment to make this project a success,” says Ahmed Nuruddin, plant operations manager for GPIC. “Despite being faced with multiple challenges during execution, the team was driven to show us the way to make more profits by applying this advanced control technology.”

Less manual intervention

One area that proved to be very beneficial was the ability for the system to smooth over cyclic changes. These had been times when operators had to drive the process more in manual to avoid larger upsets. The new platform was able to keep the process stable and minimize the need for direct operator intervention. Jawahery adds, “The advanced process control project not only delivered increased productivity, but also realized some significant intangible benefits such as improved energy efficiency, plant stability and lesser dependence on human factors.”

Once the new system was in full operation, the unit was able to quantify the performance improvements. An audit showed three main areas:

• Increased production;
• Greater process stability, particularly during process changes; and
• Reduced energy consumption.

Fadhel Al-Ansari, GPIC’s technical services manager, reckons that the improvements will show an accelerated payback period of 18 months. He says, “We now have a great technology footprint with guaranteed support behind us.”

Don Morrison is Profit Suite product manager for Honeywell Process Solutions. Reach him at don.morrison@honeywell.com.

Also read Driving plant optimization with advanced process control.

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