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How Engineering Simulation Can Be Used in Plant Design

Radu Crahmaliuc
BlogCAE HubHow Engineering Simulation Can Be Used in Plant Design

Digital manufacturing is here. The digital industry needs better products made by smart machines, consuming less energy, and reducing production costs. But first, above all of these, it needs plant design optimization—it needs smart plants that are capable of running smart industrial processes.

Plant optimization

This article will identify a few of the most important factors that should be considered in plant design and optimization.

5 Key Factors in Industrial and Plan Design

  • Smart energy buildings that are capable of using alternative energies like geothermal and solar-powered systems for all purposes of industrial buildings.
  • Optimized utility systems that are in close relation to pollution regulations and ecosystem integration.
  • Having a smart HVAC system is essential for industrial ecosystems—particularly for based on energy savings, thermal comfort, air quality and noise standards.
  • For process engineers, it is critical to have a clear vision of the plant building infrastructure in relation to utilities, structural behavior of industrial halls, industrial machines and specific tools, industrial process, flow of materials and logistics operations.
  • The composition and design of individual processes are very important planning steps and will decisively influence the functional efficiency, execution time, investment, and overall operating costs.

A Permanent Need for Optimization

In different stages, process engineers should be ready to optimize material flows, resources utilization and logistic operations for all levels of the plant structure, from long-time global production facilities to specific lines of local plants. Looking at specific industries, we can speak about:

  • Oil & gas process plants and refineries
  • Chemical processes factories
  • Metals & heavy industry factories
  • Nuclear power plants
  • Shipyard buildings
  • Consumer goods factories
  • Pharmaceutical factories

Regardless of their nature, all of these industrial buildings share the requirement to manage complex engineering information to speed up project completion and ensure operational efficiency. The permanent need for better industrial processes, larger units, complex installations or industrial equipment is driving the race for innovations that can speed up the engineering design process.

Engineering Simulation in Plant Design Optimization

By enabling engineers to virtually test and optimize their designs, SimScale is contributing to the development of a more efficient production supporting plant optimization efforts. Using the SimScale simulation platform, engineers could validate experimental results, run parametric studies and mix different simulations methods.

Let’s see a few plant-specific simulation examples available in the SimScale Public Projects Library that demonstrate various projects for industrial buildings pollution, indoor air quality, ventilation systems, equipment and more.

Pollution Control with Airflow Analysis

As discussed, key factors in plants design are pollution factors. In this chimney pollution analysis, the diffusion of gases into the atmosphere through the chimney of a plant was simulated. For simulation purposes, the fluid volume around the plant has been extracted via a local CAD software and was uploaded as a STEP file, consisting out of a single solid.

For the simulation setup, a steady-state turbulent fluid flow analysis type in addition to a passive scalar model for the exhaust gases was used. This assumes that the gas itself does not have an impact on the fluid flow but is transported with the flow. Additionally, depending on the velocity field of the flow, molecular diffusion effects are accounted for; however, it is often very small in comparison to the convective transport effects. The simulation results show the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Through this, we can see how the gas is distributed within the environment and make better decisions related to plant chimney location, optimal height, and other airflow characteristics.

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Simple Hall Airflow Simulation

Many times, in plant design, the simple indoor configuration should be analyzed. In this airflow analysis of a simple hall with open doors, the airflow domain—including the inner part of the hall as well as a part of the environment around it—has been uploaded in STEP format to the SimScale platform.

The simulation was set up using the analysis type for steady-state, natural convection flow. Different fixed temperatures, as well as zero-gradient boundary conditions, have been assigned to simulate the heated hall during winter when the outside environment is cold. The simulation results enable the early visualization of the pressure and velocity field of the volume flux, as well as the resulting temperature within the hall.

Conjugate Heat Transfer Analysis of a Heat Exchanger

Many plants are using different exchanger systems in their heating or industrial processes. This project includes a shell and tube heat exchanger simulation using the conjugate heat transfer technique, abbreviated as CHT. Conjugate heat transfer defines processes which involve variations of temperature in solids and fluids due to thermal interactions.

heat exchanger conjugate heat transfer simulation
Conjugate heat transfer simulation of a heat exchanger carried out with SimScale

All the projects presented in this article can be imported into your own workspace and used as templates. Upload a new CAD design or change the settings according to your own project requirements and start simulating in minutes.

Download this free case study to learn how the SimScale CFD platform was used to investigate a ducting system and optimize its performance.


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