Benzene hydrogenation via reactive distillation is a process that has been widely adopted in the process industry. However, studies in the open literature on control of this process are rare and seem to indicate that conventional decentralized PI control results in sluggish responses when the reactive distillation column is subjected to disturbances in the feed concentration. In order to overcome this performance limitation, this work investigates model predictive control (MPC) strategies of a reactive distillation column model, which has been implemented in gPROMS. Several MPCs based upon different sets of manipulated and controlled variables are investigated where the remaining variables remain under regular feedback control. Further, MPC controllers with output disturbance correction and, separately, with input disturbance correction have been investigated. The results show that the settling time of the column can be reduced and the closed loop dynamics significantly improved for the system under MPC control compared to a decentralized PI control structure.
Control Engineering Practice 52, pp. 103-113 (2016)