Refinery planning : a mature technology, yes but…

Reinventing refinery planning


Refinery planning has been among the first applications of mathematical programming in the industry. Linear programming has been successfully applied to both long term and short term refinery planning.

Fundamentally, linear programming is about calculating a set of activities under the condition that no activity should be used if a more profitable activity or combination of activities was available. In addition, the method implies values to be placed on scarce resources (marginal costs) which define the opportunities open to the company.

The practice of linear programming by oil refiners has evolved over time in two, somewhat competing directions

  • Running a large number of cases in order to quickly evaluate various crude oils available in the market from a trader’s perspective
  • A short term perspective on refinery planning viewed as a preparation step to refinery scheduling: this view on refinery planning requires a more accurate representation of both the logistics and stream movements (hence a generalized use of pooling) and of the process units performance (hence the use of non-linear process models)

Another important factor which has impacted the way linear programming models were used in recent years has been the arrival of a younger generation of users subject to a higher turnover. In the past, a certain level of expertise in linear programming model building and in-depth interpretation of results was achieved after several years of practice. By contrast, today’s users are more interested in a quick overview of a large number of solutions.


The new generation refinery planning systems must therefore address the following requirements

Easy to use

Provide simple and easy to learn modeling environment, data structures and user interface


Enable the user to quickly build alternative scenarios through very simple manipulations


Provide summary solutions which can be quickly grasped and compared among each other


Ensure data consistency between refinery planning and refinery scheduling
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Princeps’ refinery planning solution: PrincepsLP


Princeps’ refinery planning system offers a complete palette of features such as multi-period and multi-refinery planning, pooling and successive linear programming, non-linear process modeling using a simulator interface. A comprehensive distribution network optimization capability is now part of PrincepsLP as well.

In addition to these capabilities, the most distinctive characteristics of Princeps’ refinery planning system are:

In the upcoming version, both Princeps’ planning and scheduling solutions will be tightly integrated within the current flowers framework in order to:

  • Extremely simplified model building rules

    which make the system very easy to learn by a new user (less than 1 day is needed)

  • A very flexible tables organization

    which makes almost any data structure acceptable as long as a data item can be retrieved without ambiguity

  • Powerful scenario generation

    which considerably simplifies alternative scenarios definition, execution and reporting. With its novel capabilities allowing virtually limitless combinations of parametric loops, the generation of hundreds of scenarios is just a few clicks away.

  • Share permanent data

    and process models

  • Simplify and unify model building

    … and maintenance which will be performed through the block diagrams formalism

  • Enable LP users to benefit from the features already available with flowers:

    • Full versioning and archiving of models and cases
    • Graphical model building
    • Easy graphical reporting
    • Simple and easy comparison between refinery plan and refinery schedule