I recently had an opportunity to speak with Perttu Tuomaala, Head of NAPCON business unit at Neste Engineering Solutions; and Ville Saarela, Simulator Product Manager, about their Operator Training Simulator (OTS). This product uses dynamic simulation to replicate realistic plant upsets, virtually. Perttu stated that “The Operator Training Simulator is the epitome of high level risk management. With OTS, you get the whole production line simulated in a very realistic way – offering operator training in a safe environment. In today’s automated world, we need to make sure that operators get the necessary training; and thus, empower the operations team with the tools to run the plant most effectively”
Ville Saarela adds, “We must emphasis the difference between an OTS and a DCS trainer. OTS is much more comprehensive in its approach to training; that is, it has a full scale simulation of the production line. A pure DCS trainer does not posses the same sophisticated simulation model as does the rigorous model used by OTS.
Here are some questions that I posed to Perttu and Ville:
What type of technology links the actual DCS computer to the your simulator?
NAPCON Simulator communicates using OPC UA communication which works over TCP/IP; and typically via standard ethernet network – within a private network or across the internet.
Can the software train for startup conditions? I know it is difficult to do because the initial parameters must be set properly.
NAPCON Simulator software models most conditions from startup to shutdown, and in between. The desired operating range is selected prior to simulator design and development. The software can be later modified to cover startup and shutdown.
Most DCS systems today have an overriding shutdown system that takes control from the operator and shuts down the plant automatically. Does your training incorporate this type of shutdown?
The typical, full scope, OTS includes all the major functionality of a real plant. Emergency Shutdown System (ESD), Safety Related System (SRS), and Safety Instrumented System (SIS) functionality are all included in our simulator to allow training for various fault, shutdown, and emergency cases.
What type of shut down cases does your software cover?
Many shutdown scenarios are process unit specific and can be covered in standard modeling. Custom modeling is also possible for special cases. A typical equipment set responsible for triggering a plant shutdown includes the following items: measurement instruments (like temperature, level, and pressure), valves, pumps, compressors, and furnaces. Equipment faults can be combined and expanded with custom scenarios.