Process optimization is the discipline of adjusting a process to optimize or make the best, or most effective, use of some specified set of parameters without violating some constraint. The most common goals are minimizing cost and maximizing throughput and/or efficiency. In process optimization of a biofuels technology of plant, the goal is to maximize one or more of the process specifications, while keeping all others within their constraints. There are three areas that should be examined – equipment optimization, optimization of operating procedures, and control optimization. The process of continuously monitoring and optimizing the entire plant is sometimes called performance supervision.
The first step is to verify that the existing biofuels or renewable fuels or chemicals equipment is being used to its fullest advantage by examining the plant’s operating data to identify equipment bottlenecks. The next step would be to examine the operating procedures, which may well vary greatly depending on the person or shift. Automation is of little use if operators take control and run the plant manually. Last, but not least one must examine control optimization. In most plants and refineries, there are literally thousands of control loops, each responsible for controlling a specific part of the process (such as flow, levels, or temperature maintenance). If the control loop is improperly designed or tuned, the process itself will run below optimum levels. It will probably be more expensive to operate, and the equipment will likely wear out faster.
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See also: Scale-Up of Industrial Fermentation Processes, Process Development: Bench to Commercialization and Process Integration in Industrial Biotechnology/Synthetic Biology.