Reinventing Process Simulation: Steam Balances Beyond the Spreadsheet

Posted: August 13, 2021

Regardless of its size, refineries, ethylene and ammonia plants, and other large industrial facilities need an accurate mass and energy balance calculation in its steam network. The correct steam balance avoids excessive energy losses, and inefficient isolation, ensuring the proper amount of energy can be delivered to each end-user, at the right pressure, temperature, and steam quality.

The ideal design of a steam system is strongly dependent on the steam demand of the plant, which is used to calculate the sizing of piping, equipment, and devices such as control valves and steam traps. One of the major challenges of steam network calculation is the selection of the calculation tool. It is common for process engineers to choose Excel spreadsheets to model these balances because it seems to be an easy solution at first; however, Excel spreadsheets become overly complex with time and don´t provide information about the system´s dynamic behavior. They are difficult to understand by anyone other than the original creator, and do not undergo a proven validation process or auditing.

Process simulators overcome the problems with spreadsheets and provide more information with clearer and easier to understand steam balance calculations. Still, traditional simulators have difficulty dealing with many end consumers’ steam condition requirements such as demands of flow, pressure, and temperature. Unlike older simulators, AVEVA Process Simulation can easily handle the complex specifications associated with detailed steam balances. This is because the simulator allows for flexible specification of the steam being produced, resulting in the end consumers’ conditions being fulfilled.

AVEVA Process Simulation is an innovative and integrated platform for process, utility, and flare simulation. Each application uses the same user interface and solution engine so that all engineers can perform any function in the same software environment. It has a specific library for steam networks with the operating units used in these systems, such as extraction turbines, desuperheaters, condensers, etc. You can even combine the steam balance with a fuel gas balance to complete an overall energy distribution network for your plant.

AVEVA Process Simulation increases the efficiency of the engineering team and improves model accuracy. Several scenarios can be simulated in a reduced time, allowing engineers to validate the design and the dynamic behavior of the system.  Among the main benefits for Steam Balances, we can mention:

  • Flexible specifications:
    • Specify steam consumption at each final user
    • Specify power, duty, or flow
  • Snapshots:
    • Save multiple cases for one steam system in the same simulation file
  • Steam Model Library
    • Steam Turbines
    • Extraction Turbines
    • Desuperheaters
    • Steam Drums and Deaerators
  • Design optimization
    • The optimizer minimizes low pressure venting
  • Transition between steady state and dynamic modes
    • Evolve steady-state simulation to dynamic simulation, and back to steady state at any time
    • No file conversion or translation is required
    • Greater understanding of the of the industrial plant dynamics with minimum effort

While there are many technical reasons to prefer AVEVA Process Simulation for steam balances, the most compelling reason is more emotional. It's fun. Steam balances can become quite complicated and challenging in a modern plant. When you no longer have to fight the software, you are free to apply your creativity to a complex problem and see the impact immediately. You also won't become locked into being the only person who can maintain an overextended Excel spreadsheet.

Finally, AVEVA Process Simulation can be seamlessly integrated with AVEVA Unified Engineering on the cloud. This creates a single source of truth for process and engineering information, so the utilities flowsheet matches the physical design of the plant even as designs change. With AVEVA Process Simulation, engineering work becomes more efficient, flexible, creative, and enjoyable.

Watch the demo video to see how AVEVA Process Simulation enables the future of plant process simulation.

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