A novel use for an old problem: The Tennessee Eastman challenge process as an activating teaching tool

Isuru A. Udugama, Krist V. Gernaey, Michael A. Taube, Christoph Bayer

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The domains of process design, operations and control are highly interdependent and thus affect operational efficiency and robustness of industrial facilities. Despite this, they are mostly kept in isolation from each other even in commercial projects, which is probably due to the perceived increase in complexity and aligned with prior experience from university education. Process design covers mostly the steady state, whereas process control is generally taught with a strong focus on classical control theory, which can be difficult to apply in industry. A reason for not combining the three domains of process design, operations and control is the lack of simple, student friendly teaching aids that can be used within time constraints of (under-)graduate teaching. The Tennessee Eastman Process (TEP) challenge, introduced in the early 90′s, originally as a process control benchmark simulation, can be used as a teaching aid to impart practical understanding of process design, dynamics and control to students. To this end, we will discuss the unique properties of the TEP, which make it an excellent tool to introduce process dynamics and control while reinforcing understanding of fundamentals, unit operations and the complexities and consequences of combining unit operations. We will then identify key developments that are needed to make the TEP a useful tool for teaching and discuss developments that have been carried out by the authors in this respect. Subsequently, it is shown how the modified model creates learning opportunities with respect to elementary as well as advanced control techniques and design assessments. The paper concludes with an outline of how this tool is currently used in a process design course with a strong emphasis on dynamics and control and in a classical undergraduate course on process control.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEducation for Chemical Engineers
Pages (from-to)20-31
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Control education
  • Process design
  • Process dynamics
  • Peaching software
  • Operator training

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