Dr. Christopher Swartz – Faculty of Engineering
Christopher Swartz

Dr. Christopher Swartz


Operations optimization, integration of design and control, mathematical modeling, scheduling and supply chain optimization.

Areas of Specialization

Current status

  • Accepting graduate students

  • Professor

    Chemical Engineering


Research Interests

Current trends of competition in an increasingly global market place, rising costs, and tightening environmental constraints make it increasingly important for process plants to be operated efficiently and in an environmentally responsible manner in order to remain competitive. This includes operation of individual process units, process plants, as well as the supply chains of which they are part. Mathematical optimization provides a tool for addressing this – as the basis of both decision-support and model-based control systems, and for optimal process design.  

My research focus is on applied optimization and automation of process systems, with the goal of developing mathematical formulations and solutions to improve the economics of operations, subject to prevailing operational, safety and environmental constraints.  Key research thrusts are described below.

Design for Dynamic Performance

The design of a plant can have a significant impact on its ability to be satisfactorily controlled.  Our research group has been involved in the development of optimization-based computational strategies, both for assessing plant operability and for incorporating operability requirements into optimal design calculations.  A current application seeks to identify design limitations to transition speed in air separation plants, where rapid response to demand and electricity price changes is highly beneficial.

Dynamic Optimization of Process Operations

We consider optimization of transient processes described by differential-algebraic equation (DAE) systems in several contexts, with a focus toward industrial applications.  (i) Electric arc furnaces (EAFs) are widely used in the steel industry for melting scrap, and are large consumers of electrical energy.  Our group has been involved in the development of modeling and computational strategies for dynamic optimization of industrial EAF systems.  (ii) Shutdowns in chemical processing plants are detrimental both to plant economics and critical product characteristics. We have developed formulation and computational strategies for determining optimal operating policies in the face of shutdowns in multi-unit operations, with application to a Kraft pulp mill. Current work extends the approach to include model discontinuities, handling of uncertainty through feedback, and optimal relaxation of specifications under abnormal operating conditions.  (iii) A further area of study within our group is the interaction between model predictive control (MPC) and a higher-level optimization layer. This includes analysis of the performance of LP-MPC cascade control systems – a common configuration in commercial MPC implementations, and the analysis and development of dynamic real-time optimization (D-RTO) systems that utilize a dynamic model at the supervisory optimization level.

Computational Strategies for Large-Scale Dynamic Optimization

We are exploring the use of parallel computing approaches for the solution of large-scale dynamic optimization problems under uncertainty.  A multiple-shooting approach is utilized for solving the dynamic optimization problem, with the uncertain parameter space discretized into a finite number of scenarios. The independent integration tasks are distributed among multiple processors for parallel solution.

Optimal Scheduling and Planning

Our research in this field is driven primarily by industrial needs, and our studies typically involve close collaboration with industrial partners. Recent and current studies include optimal raw material purchasing and plant operation under uncertainty in steel manufacturing, the development of optimal scheduling and planning formulations for an industrial food processing application, and optimal scheduling of converter aisle operations in a nickel smelting plant.  In addition, we are exploring strategies for reactive scheduling, and systematic integration of planning and scheduling.

Supply Chain Optimization

Key drivers in the process industry toward an increased focus on supply chain technologies are increasing pressure to reduce costs and inventories due to market competition, a shift from commodity products toward low-volume, demand-driven specialty products, globalization of operations, and more rapidly fluctuating demands. Within our group, we consider strategies for optimal supply chain operation and design, as well as the development of computational tools for supply chain performance analysis.

Work in this area includes (i) a novel robust model predictive control formulation for application to process supply chain systems, (ii) a supply chain formulation that includes time-limited transportation contracts within an optimal supply chain design, and (iii) development of a systematic framework for supply chain operability analysis, motivated by Canadian forest products industry transformation from commodity production to integrated biorefineries producing biofuels and specialty chemicals, where flexibility and responsiveness to accommodate market variation, feedstock variability and fluctuating customer demands is a key consideration.

Block Heading

  • B.Sc. (Eng.) Chemical Engineering, Cape Town
  • Ph.D. Chemical Engineering, Wisconsin
  • MAIChE, MCSChE, P.Eng., (Ontario)


  • Boucheikhchoukh, A, Berger, V, Swartz, CLE, Deza, A, Nguyen, A, Jaffer, S. Multiperiod refinery optimization for mitigating the impact of process unit shutdowns, Comp Chem Eng, 164, 107873 (2022).
  • MacKinnon, L, Sundaresan Ramesh, P, Mhaskar, P, Swartz, CLE. Dynamic real-time optimization for nonlinear systems with Lyapunov stabilizing MPC, J Process Control, 114, 1-15 (2022).
  • Boucheikhchoukh, A, Swartz, CLE, Bouveresse, E, Lutran, P, Robert, A. Optimization of a multiperiod refinery planning problem under uncertainty, AIChE J., DOI: 10.1002/aic.17799 (2022).
  • Franzoi, R.E., Kelly, J.D., Menezes, B.C., Swartz, C.L.E. An adaptive sampling surrogate model building framework for the optimization of reaction systems, Comp. Chem. Eng., 152, 107371 (2021).
  • Sundaresan Ramesh, P., Swartz, C.L.E., Mhaskar, P. Closed-loop dynamic real-time optimization with stabilizing predictive control, AIChE J., DOI: 10.1002/aic.17308 (2021).
  • Li, H., Swartz, C.L.E. Robust model predictive control via multi-scenario reference trajectory optimization with closed-loop prediction, J. Process Control, 100, 80-92 (2021).
  • Dering, D., Swartz, C.L.E., Dogan, N. A dynamic optimization framework for basic oxygen furnace operation, Chem. Eng. Sci., 241, 116653 (2021).
  • MacKinnon, L., Li, H., Swartz, C.L.E. Robust model predictive control with embedded multi-scenario closed-loop prediction, Comp. Chem. Eng., 149, 107283 (2021).
  • Mathur, P., Swartz, C.L.E., Zyngier, D. and Welt, F. Robust online scheduling for optimal short-term operation of cascaded hydropower systems under uncertainty, J. Process Control, 98, 52-65 (2021).
  • Remigio, E.J., Swartz, C.L.E. Production scheduling in dynamic real-time optimization with closed-loop prediction, J. Process Control, 89, 95-107 (2020).
  • Dering, D., Swartz, C.L.E., Dogan, N. Dynamic modelling and simulation of basic oxygen furnace (BOF) operation, Processes, 8(4), 483 (2020).
  • Wang, J., Swartz, C.L.E., Corbett, B., Huang, K. Supply chain monitoring using principal component analysis, Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., 59, 27, 12487-12503 (2020).
  • Mathur, P., Swartz, C.L.E., Zyngier, D. and Welt, F. Uncertainty management via online scheduling for optimal short-term operation of cascaded hydropower systems, Comp. Chem. Eng., 134, 106677 (2020).
  • Patel, S. and Swartz, C.L.E. (2019). Supply chain design with time-limited transportation contracts, Comp. Chem. Eng., 131, 106579.
  • Rashid, MM, Patel, N.Mhaskar, P.Swartz, C. L. E. Handling sensor faults in economic model predictive control of batch processe, AIChE Journal,65 (2) 617-628 (2019) [ Publisher Version ]
  • Li, H.Swartz, C. L. E. Dynamic real-time optimization of distributed MPC systems using rigorous closed-loop prediction, Computers & Chemical Engineering,122 356-371 (2019) [ Publisher Version ]
  • Swartz, C. L. E., Kawajiri, Y Design for dynamic operation-A review and new perspectives for an increasingly dynamic plant operating environment, Computers & Chemical Engineering,128 329-339 (2019) [ Publisher Version ]
  • Shyamal, S.Swartz, C. L. E. Real-time energy management for electric arc furnace operation, Journal of Process Control,74 50-62 (2019) [ Publisher Version ]
  • Li, H.Swartz, C. L. E. Coordination of distributed MPC systems using a nonlinear dynamic plant model with closed-loop prediction, Computer Aided Chemical Engineering,44 571-576 (2018) [ Publisher Version ]
  • Swartz, C. L. E., Kawajiri, Y Design for dynamic operation–A review and new perspectives for a dynamic manufacturing environment, Computer Aided Chemical Engineering,44 571-576 (2018) [ Publisher Version ]
  • Mathur, P.Swartz, C. L. E., Zyngier, D., Welt, F. Optimal Short-Term Scheduling for Cascaded Hydroelectric Power Systems considering Variations in Electricity Prices, Computer Aided Chemical Engineering,44 1345-1350 (2018)
  • Ewaschuk, C.Swartz, C. L. E., Zhang, Y An optimization framework for scheduling of converter aisle operation in a nickel smelting plant, Computers & Chemical Engineering,119 195-214 (2018) [ Publisher Version ]
  • Li, H.Swartz, C. L. E. Approximation techniques for dynamic real-time optimization (DRTO) of distributed MPC systems, Computers & Chemical Engineering,118 195-209 (2018) [ Publisher Version ]
  • Adams, T. A. IIThatho, T., Le Feuvre, Matthew C., Swartz, C. L. E. The optimal design of a distillation system for the flexible polygeneration of dimethyl ether and methanol under uncertainty, Frontiers in Energy Research,6 41 (2018) [ Publisher Version ]
  • Li, H.Swartz, C. L. E. Economic Coordination of Distributed Nonlinear MPC Systems using Closed-loop Prediction of a Nonlinear Dynamic Plant, IFAC-PapersOnline,51 (20) 35-40 (2018) [ Publisher Version ]
  • Shyamal, S.Swartz, C. L. E. Real-Time Dynamic Optimization-Based Advisory System for Electric Arc Furnace Operation, Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research,57 (39) 13177-13190 (2018) [ Publisher Version ]
  • Shyamal, S.Swartz, C. L. E. Real-time energy management for electric arc furnace operation, Journal of Process Control, (2018) [ Publisher Version ]

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