Worldwide, there is a huge base of currently installed process plants. Our research finds ways of helping them to run efficiently and smoothly. This is achieved by optimizing the operation of the process and equipment by detection and diagnosis of the root causes of process inefficiencies.

The methods make use of all available information, not only measurements from operating processes but also qualitative and connectivity information from process schematics and drawings, plus reasoning from physical first principles.

Process plants have mechanical and electrical equipment too (e.g arc furnace, compressors driven by electrical motors in LNG plants). We look at measurements from the mechanical and electrical sub-systems to understand the whole picture.

Detection and diagnosis methods that work well in chemical process plants also work well in a.c. electricity transmission grids. Our Wide Area Measurement System (WAMS) project has grown into a major activity. We are starting to explore the interactions between a.c. transmission grids and process plants which are large electrical consumers.

The work is being undertaken by Imperial researchers, industrial research engineers on secondment and PhD students sharing their time between Imperial and industrial placements with collaborating companies.

"The mission of the ABB/RAEng Research Chair in Process Automation is to create innovative approaches, tools and methods for optimal integrated operation of large scale production facilities. It will move process automation technology from its current focus on individual items of equipment towards the integrated supervision of a much broader set of installed assets. The chair programme will deliver its research in collaboration with industrial partners in a form that is ready for technology transfer, and will disseminate it through leading international academic and industrial journals."