Economic Model Predictive Control for Spray Drying Plants

Lars Norbert Petersen

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesis

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The main challenge in cost optimal operation of a spray dryer, is to maximize the production rate while minimizing the energy consumption, keeping the residual moisture content of the powder below a maximum limit and avoiding that the powder sticks to the chamber walls. The conventional PI control strategy is simple, but known to be insufficient at providing optimal operation in the presence of variations in the feed and the ambient air humidity. This motivates our investigation of Model Predictive Control (MPC) strategies.

In this thesis, we consider the development and application of new models and MPC strategies to optimize the operation of four-stage spray dryers. The models are first-principle dynamic models with parameters identified from dryer specific experiments and powder properties identified from laboratory tests. A simulation model is used for detailed closed-loop simulations and a complexity reduced control model is used for state estimation and prediction in the controllers. These models facilitate development and comparison of control strategies. We develop two MPC strategies; a linear tracking MPC with a Real-Time Optimization layer (MPC with RTO) and an Economic Nonlinear MPC (E-MPC). We tailor these for the spray drying process to optimize the cost of operation by adjustments to the inputs of the dryer according to the present disturbances and process constraints. Simulations show that MPC strategies improve the profit of operation by up to 9.69%, the production of powder by up to 9.6%, the residual moisture content by up to 0.114 p.p. and the energy efficiency by up to 6.06% while the produced powder is within the given quality specifications and sticky powder on the walls of the chamber is avoided. Thus, we are able to improve the cost of operation significantly compared to the conventional PI control strategy.

The proposed MPC strategies are based on a feedback control algorithm that explicitly handles constrained control inputs and uses a model to predict and optimize the future behavior of the dryer. The solution of the control problem results in a sequence of inputs for a finite horizon, out of which only the first input is applied to the dryer. This procedure is repeated at each sample instant and is solved numerically in real-time. The MPC with RTO tracks a target that optimizes the cost of operation at steady-state. The E-MPC optimizes the cost of operation directly by having this objective directly in the controller. The need for the RTO layer is then eliminated.

We demonstrate the application of the proposed MPC with RTO to control an industrial GEA MSDTM-1250 spray dryer, which produces approximately 7500 kg/hr of enriched milk powder. Compared to the conventional PI controller, our first results shows that the MPC improves the profit of operation by approximately 228,000 €/year, the product rate by 322 kg/hr, the residual moisture content by 0.166 p.p. and the energy efficiency by 1% at comparable ambient air humidity conditions. The demonstrated MPC with RTO is fully integrated in the daily operation of the spray dryer today.

Our primary objectives in the thesis are: 1) Spray dryer modeling of a smallscale four-stage spray dryer. The purpose of the models are to enable simulations of the spray drying process at different operating points, such that the models facilitate development and comparison of control strategies; 2) Development of MPC strategies that automatically adjust the dryer to variations in the feed and the ambient air humidity, such that the energy consumption is minimized, the residual moisture content in the powder is controlled within the specifications and sticky powder is avoided from building up on the dryer walls; 3) Demonstrate the industrial application of an MPC strategy to a full-scale industrial four-stage spray dryer.

The main scientific contributions can be summarized to:

- Modeling of a four-stage spray dryer. We develop new first-principles engineering models for simulation of a four-stage spray dryer. These models enables simulations of the spray dryer at different operating points with high accuracy.
- Development and simulation of control strategies. We develop two control strategies, the MPC with RTO and the E-MPC strategy. The performance of the controllers is studied and evaluated by simulation.
- Industrial application of MPC to a spray dryer. We demonstrate that our proposed MPC with RTO is applicable to an industrial GEA MSDTM-1250 spray dryer, that produces enriched milk powder.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationKgs. Lyngby
PublisherTechnical University of Denmark
Number of pages229
Publication statusPublished - 2016
SeriesDTU Compute PHD-2016


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