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Abnormal Events Management in Complex Process Plants: Challenges, Opportunities, and Emerging Trends

Abnormal situations arise in process plants when plants deviate from normal operational modes. Such excursions could have an adverse effect on product quality, process safety, occupational health, environmental quality and process economics. The economic impact of such abnormal situations is enormous; about $20 billion/year in losses in the petrochemical industries alone in the US. The cost is much more when includes other industries such as pharmaceutical, specialty chemicals, and power industries. Furthermore, process safety, occupational health, and environmental hazards are ever increasing in importance in response to heightening public concern and the resultant tightening of regulations. Thus, there exists considerable incentive in developing appropriate solutions towards the management of abnormal situations in complex process plants. People in the process industries view this as the next major challenge in control systems research and application.

There are two different, but related, components of the overall abnormal events management (AEM) problem. One deals with the problem of process safety during real-time operations. The other deals with safety issues during the design and/or modifications of the plant or the processes. This is, of course, the domain of process hazards analysis (PHA). In both cases, one depends on humans to perform sophisticated cause-and-effect reasoning through hundreds of possibilities, and for real-time situations, often under enormous psychological strain. Accidents investigations have shown human errors, due to information overload, time pressure, and lack of adequate training, are often the major causes of accidents. As a result, researchers have been investigating the potential of intelligent systems for abnormal situation management and process hazards analysis. These two problem areas are now poised to play a dominant role in defining the course of process systems research and application for the coming decade. In this talk, I will present an overview of these two problem areas, the challenges we face and the encouraging emerging trends. Recent progress has promising implications on the use of intelligent systems for a variety of applications in the chemical, petrochemical, and pharmaceutical industries for inherently safer design, operator training, abnormal situation management, and optimal process operations.
Type of Seminar:
Public Seminar
Prof. Venkat Venkatasubramanian
School of Chemical Engineering Purdue University West Lafayette, IN 47906
Sep 22, 2009   17:15 /

ETH Zentrum, Building ETZ, Room E 8
Contact Person:

Prof. M. Morari
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Biographical Sketch:
Prof. Venkat Venkatasubramanian is a Professor of Chemical Engineering and a Professor of Industrial and Physical Pharmacy (by courtesy) at Purdue University. He received his Ph. D. in Chemical Engineering (with a Minor in Theoretical Physics) from Cornell University, M.S. in Physics from Vanderbilt University, and B. Tech. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Madras, India. Venkat worked as a Research Associate in Artificial Intelligence in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie-Mellon University and taught at Columbia University before joining Purdue in 1988. Prof. Venkatasubramanian's research contributions have been in the areas of process fault diagnosis and abnormal events management, risk identification and management in complex engineered systems, pharmaceutical engineering and informatics, product design via discovery informatics, systems biology, and complex adaptive systems using knowledge-based systems, neural networks, genetic algorithms, mathematical programming and statistical approaches. His teaching interests include process design, process control, pharmaceutical engineering, systems biology, artificial intelligence, statistical physics, and applied statistics.

Prof. Venkatasubramanian has published 170 refereed papers, and delivered 125 invited lectures and seminars, including 16 keynote/plenary lectures, at various international conferences and institutions all over the world. He has authored or co-authored three books and co-edited two. Venkat has chaired or co-chaired over thirty international meetings, conferences and sessions in the areas of artificial intelligence applications in process engineering. Thirty doctoral and nine masters students have graduated under Venkat's supervision.

Prof. Venkatasubramanian's contributions have been recognized by several awards and honors. He was the 1990 recipient of the Eminent Overseas Lectureship Award from the Institution of Engineers in Australia. He received the Norris Shreve Award for Outstanding Teaching in Chemical Engineering in 1993, 2004 and 2006, and the Teaching for Tomorrow Award in 2004, both awarded by Purdue University. He is an Associate Editor of Computers and Chemical Engineering. In 1996, Industry week magazine selected him as “one of the fifty R&D stars in the United States whose achievements are shaping the future of our industrial culture and America's technology policy”. His co-authored paper on fault diagnosis was awarded the CAST Directors’ Award for the Best Poster Presentation at the 2000 AIChE Annual meeting. Venkat and his students were awarded the Best Paper Prize for 2002-05 from the Journal of Engineering Applications of Artificial Intelligence, sponsored by the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC), for a paper on abnormal events detection and process risk management. His co-authored paper on informatics won the 2006 Best Paper Prize from Computers and Chemical Engineering. He is a co-recipient of the Team Research Excellence Award from the College of Engineering, Purdue University, in 2007, for his contributions to the development of the discovery informatics framework for molecular products design. In 2007, Venkat was recognized for his outstanding teaching record at Purdue as the only faculty member in the College of Engineering to be elected to the Teaching Academy. In 2009, AIChE honored Venkat with the Computing in Chemical Engineering Award for his novel contributions to process systems engineering.