This paper describes the modalities and the main results of a long cycle of studies—over about 10 years—on computer control applied to distillation processes. These studies were carried out by the Automatic Control Laboratory at Grenoble, with the collaboration of various industrial companies (Naphtachimie, Mors-Te´le´mecanique Electrique, Rhoˆne-Progil, and Shell) and supported by a grant from the French Government. The main objective was to decrease the gap existing between available theory and the methods effectively applied in industry, thus leading the Laboratory to direct our studies towards industrial implementation. To fulfill this goal, it proved useful to employ an intermediate step: the development of the methods and algorithms by preliminary application on pilot scale plants built for this purpose in the Laboratory. Important feedback is provided after each practical application, since experimental results often suggest further studies on the methods used or new theoretical developments.

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