Mathematical modelling and control of agitated extraction columns

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Mjalli, Farouq S.

Liquid-liquid extraction has long been known as a unit operation that plays an important role in industry. This process is well known for its complexity and sensitivity to operation conditions. This thesis presents an attempt to explore the dynamics and control of this process using a systematic approach and state of the art control system design techniques. The process was studied first experimentally under carefully selected. operation conditions, which resembles the ranges employed practically under stable and efficient conditions. Data were collected at steady state conditions using adequate sampling techniques for the dispersed and continuous phases as well as during the transients of the column with the aid of a computer-based online data logging system and online concentration analysis. A stagewise single stage backflow model was improved to mimic the dynamic operation of the column. The developed model accounts for the variation in hydrodynamics, mass transfer, and physical properties throughout the length of the column. End effects were treated by addition of stages at the column entrances. Two parameters were incorporated in the model namely; mass transfer weight factor to correct for the assumption of no mass transfer in the. settling zones at each stage and the backmixing coefficients to handle the axial dispersion phenomena encountered in the course of column operation. The parameters were estimated by minimizing the differences between the experimental and the model predicted concentration profiles at steady state conditions using non-linear optimisation technique. The estimated values were then correlated as functions of operating parameters and were incorporated in·the model equations. The model equations comprise a stiff differential~algebraic system. This system was solved using the GEAR ODE solver. The calculated concentration profiles were compared to those experimentally measured. A very good agreement of the two profiles was achieved within a percent relative error of ±2.S%. The developed rigorous dynamic model of the extraction column was used to derive linear time-invariant reduced-order models that relate the input variables (agitator speed, solvent feed flowrate and concentration, feed concentration and flowrate) to the output variables (raffinate concentration and extract concentration) using the asymptotic method of system identification. The reduced-order models were shown to be accurate in capturing the dynamic behaviour of the process with a maximum modelling prediction error of I %. The simplicity and accuracy of the derived reduced-order models allow for control system design and analysis of such complicated processes. The extraction column is a typical multivariable process with agitator speed and solvent feed flowrate considered as manipulative variables; raffinate concentration and extract concentration as controlled variables and the feeds concentration and feed flowrate as disturbance variables. The control system design of the extraction process was tackled as multi-loop decentralised SISO (Single Input Single Output) as well as centralised MIMO (Multi-Input Multi-Output) system using both conventional and model-based control techniques such as IMC (Internal Model Control) and MPC (Model Predictive Control). Control performance of each control scheme was. studied in terms of stability, speed of response, sensitivity to modelling errors (robustness), setpoint tracking capabilities and load rejection. For decentralised control, multiple loops were assigned to pair.each manipulated variable with each controlled variable according to the interaction analysis and other pairing criteria such as relative gain array (RGA), singular value analysis (SVD). Loops namely Rotor speed-Raffinate concentration and Solvent flowrate Extract concentration showed weak interaction. Multivariable MPC has shown more effective performance compared to other conventional techniques since it accounts for loops interaction, time delays, and input-output variables constraints.
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