MEL: The most cost-effective solutions in the simulation industry

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Microfusion Engineering Labs, Inc., offers the most cost-effective solutions in the simulation industry. MEL's Thermal Hydraulic Integrated Network (THINK™) models provide our clients with reliable simulators for their critical training requirements.

Full-scope Training Simulators

A good training program account can eliminate the operational disturbances that account for about 40 percent of a facility's losses.

Application of MEL simulation tools and services minimizes operational errors and production losses. All process scenarios, as well as the experience of plant personnel, are incorporated in the simulation trainers. Realistic simulation trainers allow operators to test different operational procedures and familiarize themselves with process anomalies that often are not apparent until the operator is faced with a live system.

The training simulators are built with the accumulated knowledge of operators, technicians and engineers who have worked on the process before; the simulators are easily kept current as actual process changes are made. This ensures the simulators will offer a broader test than any single person or team could do. In addition, because they are automated, the job of record keeping is eased for the instructor.

Plant Operation Simulators

Operational performance of a process plant can be improved by studying the plant dynamics and its transient behaviors. Traditionally, the operating conditions of a process and modifications of production procedures are determined by running the plant under different conditions until an optimum configuration is found. In practice, this opportunity is seldom available to plant operations for a variety of reasons - the potential for introducing major plant upsets, a lack of equipment for test purposes, or simply the need to get products out the door.

A cost-effective and risk-free method of process optimization is the development of a real-time dynamic simulation model of the plant. Operational strategies are performed in a trial-and-error mode on the simulation model. Various operation parameters can be tested interactively on the model until an optimum set of parameters is obtained. These values are then transferred to the plant's online control system as the actual operation set points to optimize plant performance.

MEL developed its tools to be capable of producing high-fidelity dynamic simulation models quickly and accurately. The THINK™ simulation engine is designed to study process transients and can be used in design for equipment sizing and operation stability analysis, de-bottlenecking studies and training and staging.

Transient Analysis Simulation

Component failure is inevitable for any facility. It is the goal of engineer, architects, construction personnel, parts suppliers, operations employees and everyone else involved in building and running a plant to avoid it. Unfortunately, nothing is perfect. One of the fundamental goals of a good control system is managing failures to reduce or eliminate the collateral damage that can follow a component failure.

One of the biggest problems facing a facility that has experienced a failure is inexperience among its operators and managers. It is one thing to test the way the control logic handles a failure when everyone knows what's going to happen. It is quite another to have it happen in the middle of a shift or in the middle of the night. Simulation can give your crew a crucial edge in meeting the challenges posed by an unexpected failure.

Failures come in many forms, from a simple wire break to a convoluted chain reaction. Often the steps people take to deal with a failure or perceived failure lead to even more damage or a longer recovery. A simulation can be used to present operators with many failure scenarios, alone or in combination, and can give them the opportunity to learn how to deal with otherwise dangerous situations in a safe environment. You can even investigate alternate responses to various emergency situations without ever putting a life on the line or risking damage to the facility or product.

A process simulation can offer other learning opportunities. There are many ways to run your plant that seem valid in concept, but people rarely want to risk deviating from what appears to work. This is a perfectly sensible approach when there are real people, equipment, and production potentially at risk. Changes to the way a facility is operated should not be made without due consideration. The opportunity to test alternatives by using simulation provides a unique method for investigating changes without taking any risk.

Staging Simulators

The ideal for any project is to have every piece finished and ready to go at exactly the same time. Having employees waiting for someone or something is inefficient and frustrating. Any time a plant spends idle represents lost income. One of the biggest sources of delay for employees and plant operation is typically the online control check-out.

After months of development, logic tracing and thought experiments, and weeks of transducer installation, testing and wiring, and days of controller set-up comes the moment of truth. Until recently this has been the technique used to "check out" a new control system: put the system online with every process element in manual control and slowly, painstakingly switch each one to automatic control. This routine is typically interrupted many times, with the plant either running unproductively or shut down completely to allow for control system adjustments.

One typical method of attempting to cut down on this stop-and-go routine is providing false inputs to the controllers via a voltage or current source applied to its inputs. This can allow engineers monitoring the logic online to verify that the very basic functions of the controller are operating as desired. Unfortunately, the lack of a dynamic response or process element interplay leaves much untested. The best option - aside from having a duplicate back-up facility to use - is to create a virtual facility that will behave as the real one does.

Engineers at Microfusion will use their experience with many widely varied processes and the specific characteristics of your facility to create a simulation that behaves as your plant behaves. With a simulation, you can begin your logic testing early, use partial logic, verify proper handling of failure modes and drastically cut down on the time typically used in manual logic validation.

You can do all of this testing before construction is complete, or before it even starts. Minor changes to the design of the facility that make it more controllable or less failure-prone can be made based on the results of simulation. Bad facility design doesn't usually reveal itself until it's too late, but with a simulation, that can be avoided. The real power of simulation as a controls test bed lies in the fact that the controls are ready to go when construction on the facility is finished.

HMI and Alarm Simulation

Most industrial processes are highly interactive. When a critical asset fails, alarms are cascading along the affected process like wild fire.

Often, based on the operator experience, it may take a considerable period of time to identify the cause of the problem, and determine the severity of the problem.

The goal of an alarm management is to manage alarms so the operators can identify the root cause of a problem through alarms, and have corrective information at their fingertips as to what action is needed.

Accomplishing this goal requires that an alarm management strategy be developed and thoroughly tested in a simulation environment, and be thoroughly scrutinized prior to on-line installation.

MEL provides both the knowledge and the tools to develop and implement an optimal alarm strategy for industries without compromising the operational safety of personnel and the availability of critical assets.

NERC Validation Simulator

NERC CIP-007 requires any critical asset changes to be tested in a manner that closely reflects the production environment prior to implementation.

MEL provides our customers a means to meet NERC CIP-007 requirement 1 (test procedure) for Bulk Power Electric System critical assets.

MEL simulators enable our clients to test any critical asset changes in a manner that closely reflects the production environment prior to implementation, meeting NERC-CIP-007 requirement 1.

NERC Security Guidelines for identifying Critical Cyber Assets can be reviewed by accessing the NERC website.