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Frequently Asked Questions about Simulator Training
1. I know that astronauts, airline pilots, and nuclear power plant operators are trained extensively through the use of simulators, but why do refinery, chemical plant, petrochemical plant, and other process plant operators need them?

First, let's quickly look at the similarities:
  • High capital investment.
  • Hazardous operating conditions.
  • Complex and integrated process mechanics.
  • High variable operating costs.
  • Complex control and instrumentation.
  • Potential for injury, loss of life.

    An operator in any kind of process plant cannot afford to make mistakes, as mistakes are costly and potentially life threatening. Simulation training provides operators with realistic dress-rehearsals for situations which require an operator to respond instinctively with competence and confidence.

    2. How can the Simulator Training products provided by Simulation Solutions benefit our operators?

    Everybody recognizes that constant practice and preparation yields superior results Simulation training is just that, a technology by which operators can practice and prepare for a situation, including:
  • Normal plant operations
  • Start-up and Shut-down procedures
  • Emergency situations (equipment failures, process excursions, etc.
  • Changes in feedstocks, catalysts, etc.

    Remember the old adage, "Practice makes perfect". It certainly applies to operator training.

    3. How will our company benefit from Simulation Training?

    Better trained operators mean better operations-- greater throughput, less downtime, lower energy costs, less equipment damage and production loss, closer environmental compliance and a safer operation. A simulator allows the supervisor to train and evaluate an operator objectively, spending time to guarantee that all critical aspects of operation and safety are clearly understood.

    4. Don't Simulators cost a lot?

    While it was once true that Simulators were economically attractive to only large companies, this is no longer the case. By developing our Simulator to run on ordinary PCs, Simulation Solutions has produced a cost-effective training tool with "live" process graphics and control graphics which looks and acts like a real process, yet is affordable for any process plant application. The real question is, "Can my plan afford not to use a Simulator?"

    5. How important are control systems in process simulation?

    Very important. Without a sophisticated control system, a simulation loses its significance to the operator. Simulation Solutions offers a comprehensive "generic" control system as well as "DCS" specific simulations based on popular DCS systems such as Honeywell, Bailey, Yokogowa, etc.
    A good simulator helps operators become familiar with today's complex control systems and therefore gain confidence in the ability to make setpoint changes, respond to alarms, review controller tuning parameters, etc.
    A simulator without these features is too simplified and can defeat the purpose of this type of training.

    6. What kind of situations can be created with a simulator?

    Almost any situation can be recreated by the simulator. The "starting point" for a training session can range from “cold start” to “design”, or any point in between. Through the use of the training features, process upsets, equipment malfunctions and failures, instrumentation problems, can be quickly activated, either immediately, after a pre-set delay, or by way of previously created "training exercises".
    Specific examples of problems and upsets include pump failures, valve failures, variable feed conditions, heat exchanger fouling, catalyst deactivation, power failure, transmitter errors, etc.

    7. What is the difference between "generic" and "custom" simulations and how do I know which to use?

    Generic simulation programs are processes common to most plants and are beneficial for most applications. While equipment sizes, feedstocks and operating parameters vary, these processes still require the same basic knowledge and operating philosophy.
    Generic simulation programs have been proven invaluable in helping both new and experienced operators to gain a deeper understanding of a process, and perhaps for the first time understand "why", not just "what" and "when", when making a process change or responding to a process upset.
    Custom programs are usually reserved for new process start-up and non-standard operations involving atypical process equipment, control schemes, operating conditions, etc. Significant “up front” investments of time and money are required to develop a custom program. Substantial on-going investments of time and money are also required to guarantee that the Custom programs are maintained and modified to stay current with changes in the real plant, and therefor live up to operator expectations that they "look", "feel" and "operate" just like the real plant.

    8. How can universities, technical colleges, and "trade schools" benefit from operator training simulators?

    For universities, operator training simulators can be used in Unit Operations Labs and can provide realistic “hands-on” experience for Engineers in operating DCS control systems and running various plant units. Complex units such as large Compressors, and Fired Heaters not commonly found in Unit Ops Labs can now be included as part of the Engineering curriculum.
    For technical colleges and "trade schools", their students can gain substantial knowledge and understanding of how to operate process plants and DCS stations. Graduates from these schools are often recruited directly by local industry for full time employment immediately following the completing of their degrees.

    9. What kind of training programs are available from Simulation Solutions?

  • Centrifugal Pump
  • Pump and Valve
  • Fluid Flow
  • Flash Drum
  • Mix Tank
  • Heat Exchanger
  • Distillation Tower
  • Steam Boiler
  • Centrifugal Compressor
  • Reciprocating Compressor
  • Fixed Bed Exothermic Reactor
  • Fundamentals of Instrumentation
  • Advanced Instrumentation
  • Atmospheric Crude Unit
  • Vacuum Crude Unit
  • Cat Cracker
  • Amine Gas Treating
  • Batch Reactor
  • Multi-Stage Refrigeration

    10. What kinds of process plants have used simulators to train their operators?

  • Batch Chemical plants
  • Oil Refineries
  • On-shore and Off-shore Gas Plants
  • Ethylene Plants
  • Fertilizer Plants
  • Co-Generation Plants
  • Petrochemical Plants
  • Continuous Operation Chemical Plants

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