In-house oil analysis and steam-generation simulation win blue ribbons

Mike Bacidore explains why awards perpetuate innovation.

By Mike Bacidore, chief editor

Awards are like water stations along the marathon route. They give you the immediate reward you need to keep going, to continue making progress. To go the extra mile.

In June, I learned of some very different award winners. The first were students from Venezuela who built a steam simulation model, and the second was International Paper’s (IP, Courtland, Alabama, plant, which many of you might remember from the story we published about its in-house oil analysis in our April 2011 issue.

At the Americas Honeywell Users Group Symposium ( in June, the winners of its first university student competition were announced. The competition recognizes university and technical students for designing solutions that solve critical manufacturing plant problems in the process industries.

his year, students pursuing degrees in technical fields at accredited colleges and universities in Canada, the United States and South America designed plans to address challenges for the process industry using simulation software or wireless technology. The winning teams displayed their designs to manufacturing companies and potential employers.

We got some real data from a real boiler, and our simulation was within 3% of deviation.

“It’s no secret that our industry is facing a shortage of incoming engineering talent, so to see the level of critical thinking and innovative ideas put forth in this competition is a very encouraging sign for the future,” says Norm Gilsdorf, president of Honeywell Process Solutions. “The students addressed real-world challenges that today’s engineers face, and all of them represent the type of talent our customers need to advance their respective industries.”

In the simulation software category, Pedro Amer and Nahir Torres from the Universidad de Oriente Venezuela built a process simulation model of a high-pressure steam boiler. Amer and Torres demonstrated how simulation can train operators to evaluate different scenarios in production and designing processes off-line.

“In our country, it’s so important to get a degree from the university,” says Torres. “We built a high-pressure steam simulation model because so many industries use steam. The boiler is principal in the generation of steam. We developed a simulation that replicates startup and shutdown. We got some real data from a real boiler, and our simulation was within 3% of deviation. We looked at pressure, temperature, water level, controls and flows of fuel and air. When we started this project, we had no idea how big it was.”

Torres and Amer are chemical engineering students. “We realized when we were studying that automation and the simulation model were very important,” says Amer. “That’s why we were interested in the automation. We learned about a lot of things, not just simulation, but controls.”

In addition to the Americas, Honeywell Process Solutions also holds annual HUG student competitions in conjunction with annual conferences in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region and the Pacific region.

After being interviewed for our What Works story, Jeff Tucker entered his IP plant in the Augustus H. Gill Award competition that is held each year by the International Council for Machinery Lubrication ( The award was formed to recognize organizations that have exhibited excellence in the application of used oil analysis in machine and lubricant condition monitoring. It was designed to motivate companies to improve machine reliability and maintenance quality through the application of oil analysis. The focus of the award isn’t just to identify award recipients, but to encourage performance of excellence and offer a means to share best practice among user organizations on a global scale. In short, the award should go a long way to raise the bar by recognizing role models for benchmarking and setting performance standards by the oil analysis community.

When the Alabama plant learned it had won the award, no one was more surprised than Jeff Tucker, predictive maintenance, lubrication analyst, at IP. “It caught me off guard,” he says. “They did an audit. Everything you had to answer on the form, you need to be able to prove. We got the documentation. It’s the mill’s award. It’s not my award. We have an annual lubrication workshop in August, and I’ll put together a presentation on the ICML award and requirements that I’ll present there.”