Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hysys Simulator Training

Caution: This post has nothing to do with headaches!

This week, I'm in process simulator training (for work) for 3 days.

Simulators are software packages that enable us (process engineers) to build computer models of the chemical plants that we design, build and operate. Simulators are powerful tools, and to be a proficient simulator requires solid chemical engineering fundamentals (so your models don't defy the laws of physics, thermodynamics, chemistry, etc.), strong computing skills, and ideally years of design or plant experience to help you appreciate the subtleties of the processes you are modeling.

Simulating simple systems may only take a few days for a young engineer. But to be a wise and experienced simulator (who isn't phased by complex processes and troubling problems) takes years. I first learned to simulate ten years ago in a software called ProII, which was code-based, meaning you had to write custom code in the simulator language. This is akin to programming. Then I learned to build and run ProVision, an upgraded version of ProII which has a graphical interface and doesn't require actual code-writing. In these two programs, I've written hundreds of models, from simple heat exchanger models to a vast plant model which included hundreds of operations, streams (material flowing in pipes) and complex distillation columns.

Since January, I've been self-teaching on a simulator software called Hysys, a product of AspenTech from Cambridge, MA. I've been using it to build a complex model of a section of our Joffre, Alberta plant. Now, I'm finally taking a 3-day intro course to fill in any gaps I have. We're working through modules hands-on, which I am finishing in 10 minutes, while the other students take an hour. Hence this post, which I'm writing after finishing my Natural Gas fractionation module. But I am learning a few tricks and tips. Still, I think I was ready for the Advanced course. But in my usual fashion, I always assume I know less rather than more.

Still, when you are self-taught in any art, you sometimes miss quicker ways and tricks to do things instead of the brute-force method you've taught yourself. Also, there are many features of the program you don't even know exist, and which can make life a lot easier as a simulator. This morning, I learned a simple trick involving pressures in pipes, which will save me lots of time in the future.

The class is fun. Lots of students from other big companies, like Chevron, Shell, Suncor, Praxair and the engineering companies. Maybe I can make a few contacts at least...

Ok, back to my next module. Will post more about headaches in a day or two.


  1. That is great to invent something useful for yourself. We often try to find a necessary thing asking other people but you do it yourself-it should be very interesting.......

  2. what you see above this is comment spam....posted by a web-robot.

    i've turned on word verification to avoid this from now on.

  3. Anonymous1:51 am

    hi terri,
    Its great to know about ur experiences and ur curiosity to remain a process simulator for such a long time and still sharpening ur skills. just wished to say thanx for you shared it with us..

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