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Industrial Controllers in Oil Refineries

Most of the Middle East countries rely on petroleum to sustain their economies. In order to maintain effectiveness in oil processing and production, industrial controllers are applied in the refineries, particularly in Kuwait, where much of its export revenue comes from petroleum. In control theory, the control system calculates solutions for the suitable action to maintain the set points. Some of the industrial controllers that are utilized in today’s refineries include distributed control systems (DCS), and programmable logic controller (PLC). DCSs are controllers that utilize decentralized subsystems to manage disseminated processes in petroleum refineries (Zhang, 2010). A DCS is capable of covering the whole process of oil production, and can cover an entire petroleum plant.

A programmable logic controller (PLC) is a microprocessor-based computer, which can perform control functions in different levels of complexity (Paul, 2014). PLCs are widely acceptable in industrial automation, as they enable machines as well as facilities to function independently. PLCs are event-driven devices; hence, any event that takes place in a refinery may result in an operation being carried out. A PLC operator constructs the lines and apparatus of ladder diagrams using a personal computer or a laptop while the resulting drawings are converted into computer language, which can be utilized as a program.

While designing control systems, control system apparatus should be selected depending on the actual operation situation. A closed-loop system incorporates a structure that offers feedback about the actual state of a given system, in addition to comparing it to the preferred state of the system to allow for modification of the system. According to Liptak (2014), a closed-loop system allows negative feedback, where detectors measure the output signals in the controlled processes, and the values are compared to reference values. Both DCS and PLCs work effectively in a close-loop system that facilitates a dynamic system. Feed forward control loops enable the industrial controllers to attain product and process control, where key processes are automatically preserved around the preferred set point.

Industrial controllers are fundamental in the oil refinery to enhance their operation. DCSs are common in petroleum refineries for managing manufacturing processes, which are continuous, for instance, in petroleum refineries, where there is a continuous flow of crude oil through oil plants. DCSs utilize process-control software as well as input/output database in their operations to enhance their control (Zhang, 2010). Large oil refineries, such as Kuwait oil refineries, possess thousands of input/output spots, which enable them to employ large DCSs. The main problem with DCSs is that they lack an efficient use of standards, particularly during system development. However, this can be solved through specifying the interface between the hardware and software interface connections.

In Kuwait, programmable logic controller (PLC) monitors the condition of input devices in a refinery, in addition to making decisions based on a custom program to manage the state of output appliances. PLC can run computerized system that has output devices in oil refineries as long as such devices can be switched on and off in a controlled manner. Such system requires a program to process the inputs so that it can successfully turn the output devices on and off. PLC has the capacity to change or duplicate a given process while collecting and conveying vital information. According to Paul (2014), PLCs are utilized in the process control in petroleum industries, where they monitor vital process parameters, in addition to adjusting process operations. PLCs are quite flexible, as they can run a number of electronically controlled production machines.


Liptak, B. G. (2006). Instrument Engineers’ Handbook: Process Control and optimization. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Paul, B. (2014). Industrial electronics and control. New Delhi: PHI Learning Private Ltd.

Zhang, P. (2010). Advanced industrial control technology. Amsterdam: William Andrew/Elsevier.