Friday, August 15, 2014

Did you know that CHEMCAD is great for modeling utilities?

Steam. Cooling water. Thermal fluids. Air. Nitrogen. Fuel. Almost every facility has them, and they can represent a great opportunity to improve your processes’ efficiency and reduce costs. Knowing if your equipment (pumps, compressors, cooling towers, heat exchangers, piping, etc.) is properly sized and your maintenance regimen (water treatment, equipment cleaning, etc.) is properly timed can represent both capital and operating cost improvements. This topic is covered in some detail in our training courses, and I’ve seen the “idea bulb” above trainees' heads when they realize the ease with which they can chase down significant process improvements.
One example we cover is the use of a distillation column UnitOp to model a cooling tower. You can add as much or as little complexity to the simulation as you like, and in our training course, we even go into details such as aqueous electrolytes and blowdown. We’ve also helped customers with models of incredibly extensive piping networks that deliver steam and cooling water throughout large facilities. Again, depending on your needs, the level of detail can vary, but we’ve seen everything from simple heat and material balances all the way to rigorous piping pressure-drop calculations, control valves, dynamic response, and even reverse flow (more on reverse flow and hydraulic balancing in a future post here--stay tuned).

Just remember: don’t let the process side dominate your thinking about how and when to use process simulation software. The utility side can be just as important and valuable!
If you need some help getting started, contact our technical support group, and we can direct you to an example or discuss your specific questions.

Did you know that you don’t have to commit to a long-term contract for CHEMCAD?

Think process simulation is only available on long-term contracts? Well, depending on your particular situation, you may only need CHEMCAD for a short duration, so a multi-year contract may not be right for you.  That’s why we offer a wide variety of contract terms to fit your needs and your budget.

CHEMCAD is certainly available with one-, three- and five-year contracts if you have longer-term needs, and there are discounts available as the contract term increases. There are even discounts for prepaying the entire contract term up front. However, if your needs are shorter-term, we offer monthly contracts that allow you to align your simulation needs with your projects. And if you decide to convert to a longer-term contract, we’ll credit some of what you’ve paid on past monthly contracts.

What if you have a longer-term project but with limited needs for simulation during the workflow? We’ve got you covered with our hourly usage contracts.  We’ll load your licensing device with a pool of hours that can be used over the term of the contract, to lower the cost of simulation versus our unlimited-use contracts.

And remember, if you need multiple simultaneous users, you can take advantage of reduced prices for multiple licenses on any of our contract types.

Don't hesitate to get in touch with one of our sales staff or distributors around the world to discuss your situation. Whatever your simulation needs, we’ve got a solution to fit!

Did you know that CHEMCAD is an OPC Server?

As you probably know, OPC (see more at the OPC Foundation, here) is a standard for exchanging data in industrial automation. Commonly used in the process industries by DCS, SCADA, and data historian systems, it also has some very interesting benefits when combined with a process simulator.

Because CHEMCAD is an OPC Server, it appears to OPC Clients as a data source, just like plant sensors, control valves, and so forth. You don't need a multi-headed piece of middleware to connect CHEMCAD to your SCADA system, and because of our system design, an OPC Client can easily push data into CHEMCAD, tell CHEMCAD to run steady state, run one time step, or even run dynamically, and pull results from CHEMCAD, all through the OPC interface.

You'll need to spend a little more effort to ensure that you have a validated model of your process (the simulation matches your plant performance within a tolerance you're comfortable with, and it reacts to process changes correctly). Many of you already go to this level of detail with your "offline" use of simulation software.
You can build a virtual plant in CHEMCAD and connect it to a SCADA system for control system checkout or operator training (OTS). You can even connect it to a SCADA system that's also connected to your operating facility, to compare simulated (as designed) values to actual performance (PPM), using either a steady-state or a dynamic simulation. 

Imagine having alarms built into your SCADA system that can alert operations staff to deviations in plant performance versus design specifications! There are even installations of advanced process control (APC) using rigorous CHEMCAD simulations to improve process efficiency by linking SCADA systems, simulations, and economic optimization engines.

We’ve helped many customers do all of the above and more, so give our support team a call if you’re thinking about a project and want to understand CHEMCAD’s OPC Server capabilities.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A New Blog Series: Did you know . . . ?

We’re starting a new series of topics here on the blog, which will highlight some of the more useful applications and features of CHEMCAD. Some of these will be high-level, powerful ways to use the program, and some of them will be day-to-day, quick methods to get useful information and analysis. Beyond that, we’ll cover some of the things you may not know about CHEMCAD licensing and support. We’re rolling out our first few topics today, and will be adding content on a semi-regular basis.

Be sure to watch for these blog entries! In the meantime, you can read on to discover why we’re doing this.

When I first got into the process simulation business 20 years ago, software was used in a slightly different way than it is today, mostly owing to the speed of computing and available software development tools back then. Large simulations took a long time to run—often they were left to run overnight. (Those of you who remember coming into the office in the morning only to find that your simulation failed to converge sometime after midnight, I sympathize!) Also, because of the perceived complexity of the software, simulations were often run only by in-house experts.

When graphical user interfaces came along, users could finally do simple calculations easily, to get quantitative and qualitative process data and display it in graphical form. I remember, for example, when CHEMCAD users found they could quickly calculate bubble and dew points using the simulator to get insight into their processes without having to build an entire flowsheet.

Nowadays, of course, this type of work is taken for granted. Many of you regularly connect simulations to spreadsheets, math solvers, plant data historians, SCADA systems, and more. Computing power has advanced to the point where incredibly complex simulations can be run multiple times per day (or even left to run at multiples of real-time for operator training and advanced process control). And today, simulations are run by people with a wide array of job functions within an engineering group.

Let me get back to the point: process simulation has developed a wealth of features beyond simple heat and material balance calculation, yet we find most users only use about 20% of the power available to them. Some of this is due to the complexity of features; if you think of the additional equipment geometry data required to run a rigorous dynamic simulation, it’s often regarded as “too much effort,” despite the potential benefit! Other times, users simply don’t realize that a feature is available. CHEMCAD has a wealth of features and power just hidden from view—in some cases on purpose, as we strive to keep complexity from hindering your day-to-day workflow.

Our staff can easily communicate about these features when we have one-on-one conversations with customers. Our sales, technical support, and training staff are always on hand to explain and walk through applications of the program, but it isn’t every day that we get a chance to speak with you. If we tried to make a brochure or set of documents to cover everything we want to showcase, we’d end up with hundreds of pages for you to navigate.

What we hope to accomplish, then, is to spark some ideas here with short descriptions in blog format. They’ll be quick reads which you can compare to what you’re trying to accomplish in your role as a chemical engineer. We hope that some of them will be immediately useful, and maybe you’ll store one of them away in your brain and use it later for that “aha!” moment.

We encourage you to jump in with your comments—let us know which of these topics are new to you, how you might see them helping in your simulation tasks, or what else you’d like to see covered in future blog entries.