The Separations Research Program (SRP) pilot plant in Austin, Texas, has been completely upgraded using the digital automation technology from Emerson Process Management, Austin, Texas.

The plant, operated by the University of Texas at Austin and funded by companies in chemical, refining and other industries, is one of the first commercial installations of Emerson’s DeltaV digital automation system v11 release. The collaboration is expected to enable the SRP pilot plant to improve its operations through more reliable control, more accurate measurement, and a better understanding of process and equipment data.

The pilot plant, which consists of multifunctional mass transfer devices, is used to evaluate separation techniques that can then be directly scaled up for commercial production. This facility is known worldwide for providing in-depth analysis of separation techniques and for the knowledge of the experts who run the plant.

The plant operates approximately 200 days per year, conducting studies that typically last one to three months. For each study, the facility is modified to meet a commercial customer’s unique needs. Major oil, chemical and food companies have used such studies to improve operations in their production facilities and to prove expected return on investment (ROI) before scaling up to production.

In addition, the SRP has developed a CO2 separation process that reduces CO2 emissions for coal-fired operations and reduces the typical process-equipment footprint by two-thirds. This process, which will undergo field trials later this year, consists of an automated turn-key skid utilizing Emerson’s PlantWeb digital automation architecture. In 2011, the facility plans to double the scale of this technology for another commercial installation.