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Surge tanks are units employed in chemical processing to regulate the flow of fluids between reactors. A notable feature of surge tank control is the need to constrain the magnitude of the Maximum Rate of Change (MROC) of the surge tank outflow, since excessive fluctuations in the rate of change of outflow can adversely affect down-stream processing (through disturbance of sediments, initiation of turbulence, etc.). Proportional + Integral controllers, traditionally employed in surge tank control, do not take direct account of the MROC. It is therefore of interest to explore alternative approaches. We show that the surge tank controller design problem naturally fits a differential games framework, proposed by Dupuis and McEneaney, for controlling a system to confine the state to a safe region of the state space. We show furthermore that the differential game arising in this way can be solved by decomposing it into a collection of (one player) optimal control problems. We discuss the implications of this decomposition technique, for the solution of other controller design problems possessing some features of the surge tank controller design problem.
Date of Publication: Nov. 2012