AVEVA Design Competition winner learns to love process simulation

Laura Fender, BASF Research Engineer and European winner of the 2020 AVEVA Design Competition shares her experience with process design and what she learned over the course of the event

Posted: November 11, 2021

Much is written about how the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will change the world, but these new developments are already being used to spark creative solutions in engineering plants and scientific laboratories around the world. As a new graduate, I am fortunate to be alive at a time when technology can enable chemical engineers to respond to changing conditions while trying out new ideas in a practical environment.

So, when one of my professors at the Hochschule Mannheim told me about the AVEVA Design Academic Competition, I knew right away I had to enter.

The design competition is aimed at chemical engineering students like me from all around the EMEA region and North America, to challenge us at using AVEVA Process Simulation software and its SimCentral component. What appealed to me was that this wasn’t some sort of theoretical concept, but an actual real-world simulation that would allow me to show my potential as a future engineer.

AVEVA Process Simulation has been built from the ground up so engineers entering the workforce can deliver the process side of the Digital Twin, which you may know as a real-world representation of a physical asset. In chemical engineering, these Digital Twins can replicate flare systems, distillation columns or heat exchangers; in other disciplines, a Digital Twin uses technologies such as Cloud and Artificial Intelligence to generate a virtual representation of an entire city, enhancing collaboration between city authorities, citizens, asset owners and engineering firms while evolving the physical fabric of the city. Among other uses, process simulation allows engineers to design, develop, analyze, and optimize the technical processes behind this vital tool – technical functions such as chemical plants, biological processes, environmental systems, power stations, complex manufacturing operations and so on.

As an engineer, the big benefit of AVEVA Process Simulation is that it is almost an open book, so you can do almost anything from a modelling perspective. And I think that’s really important. Because when you sit in front of the software and you have to tell a developer to implement a new function, that is a difficult and laborious process. But when you can write the models yourself, it’s much easier for the user. In that way, AVEVA Process Simulation allows engineers to be creative. Over the several months of the competition, I learned that I really enjoy process simulation.

For me, the AVEVA Design Competition allowed me to approach the flowsheet model writing functionality within AVEVA Process Simulation and demonstrate how a simulation problem with different levels of complexity can be approached. I was able to simulate the production of benzene and o-xylene via toluene disproportionation, moving from the base case simulation in process mode to optimizing the process before transferring the model into dynamic mode and studying the dynamic behavior until steady state.

What was particularly fascinating was learning how to simulate whole processes. That was really new for me, because at university, we only simulated single units. Dynamic simulation was entirely new. Working within a flowsheet simulator was very exciting and allowed me to put my theoretical knowledge into practice and challenge myself. Along the way I had to teach myself to use AVEVA Process Simulation program by watching webinars and reading the manual. That process was extremely rewarding in itself. In fact, one of the biggest things I learned from the AVEVA Design Competition is that I can teach myself to use new programs, to use new technology.

I think as technology constantly evolves around us, whether we are in the lab or at home using a new device, we’ve got to realize that there are no limits to acquiring and testing knowledge. Competitions and tests outside our comfort zone offer the opportunity to grow our knowledge – and thereby, acquire new skills.

That was proved to me during the recruitment process and when I joined BASF as a research engineer this year. I was asked about the AVEVA Design Competition in the interviews, and by people at my work. They know AVEVA, and they appreciated what I was able to achieve.

Laura Fender is a research engineer at BASF and the European winner of the 2020 AVEVA Academic Design Competition. She spoke to an AVEVA journalist. For more information head to AVEVA.com.


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