The petroleum refining industry involves many capital and energy intensive processes. Due to complex phenomena and the difficulties in taking measurements, the knowledge needed for process optimization can be most readily obtained through the development of high fidelity computational fluid dynamics (CFD) numerical simulations. CFD has become a powerful simulation technology used in industrial process design and optimization for productivity enhancement, energy efficiency optimization, environmental management, and quality assurance. With increasingly complex CFD capable of simulating and analyzing ever-larger amounts of data, interpolating and presenting the numerical data in a meaningful fashion is a key for effective communication between CFD experts and plant engineers. Traditionally, CFD experts frequently develop two-dimensional pictures and animate their results to help make the information easily digestible. Recently, virtual reality (VR) technology made it possible for people to analyze huge amounts of CFD data in a virtual environment. VR creates a computer-generated world in which people who are not analysis experts can see the results in a context that they can easily understand. Even people who are familiar with interpreting analysis results can gain insights that make it possible to understand the root causes of observed problems and plan design changes in much less time. The integration of CFD with VR is a growing and emerging research field which can provide virtual engineering (VE) systems. In the present study, several VE applications in the petroleum refining industry have been discussed. The VE environment has greatly enhanced the value of CFD simulations and allows engineers to gain much needed process insights in order to make sound engineering decisions.

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