This thesis continues the work of previous students Donaldson (2005), Samsudi (2005) and Donohoe (2006) on the development of the Virtual Process Plant. The objective of the Virtual Process Plant is to provide an immersive learning environment for operators and undergraduate chemical engineering students. This learning environment aims to deepen the users’ understanding of the process plant, and improve their operational skills in a safe and interactive environment. While this specific project is based on the Crude Distillation Unit 2 at BP’s Bulwer Island Refinery, it will act as a prototype for the application of this technology to other processes.
This thesis details the design of two training tools; pump isolation procedures and a hydraulic plate simulation to aide understanding of the operation of the distillation column. These training tools highlight two different aspects of learning. The pump isolation is a very task-specific activity that focuses on learning the set procedure, while the distillation activity encourages the user to gain a deeper understanding of the behaviour of the system.
Pump Isolation Procedures
Training programs were developed to teach operators the correct procedures to isolate two specific pumps at BP’s Bulwer Island Refinery. These programs utilise GRAFCET diagrams (IEC 2000) to organise the complex set of steps in the isolation procedure into a clear, sequential manner. This diagram was integrated with on-site photographs of the equipment to visualise the steps. Interactive activities were also proposed to both improve the users understanding of the process and test their performance during an isolation procedure. This design is currently being implemented by the Teaching and Educational Development Institute (TEDI).
Distillation Operations Interface
This training program focuses on the development of an in-depth understanding of the operation of the distillation column. A qualitative interface for a distillation column plate was previously designed by Donaldson (2005). The objective of this thesis was to convert this to a quantitative interface, to allow greater interaction and consequently better learning outcomes. Hydraulic plate simulations had previously been developed by Donaldson (2005) and Donohoe (2006), however, they focused on plate design rather then operation and were unable to be directly utilised in their current form. Consequently, Microsoft Excel model utilising their previous work was developed. This model was used to identify trends of interest to design a training program to demonstrate the behaviour of the system. The interface was then redesigned integrating interface design principles from the literature and is to be implemented by TEDI in the future.