Monday, 7 December 2015

The Benefit of a Pilot Plant in Speeding the Commercial Process

Have you ever asked yourself why you needs a pilot plant for research and development? In fact, a number of processes are scale dependent. It can be quite a challenging experience to transition from small-scale operations to a large scale production plant. The transition needs to be smooth but the initial setting up can be a big scare.

A huge production plant is sometimes built based on information which is gathered at the small unit. However, the kinetics may differ considerably and the reactions may not be up to par. However, sometimes the best laid plans may not go according to plan. The worst case scenario could be that uncontrolled heat build-up could lead to abnormal reactions and possible explosions even if some materials are corrosion-resistant.

This cannot be attributed to human error, rather it could be a process that went wrong. The process takes a different turn when there is a change. It is also not possible at times to forecast these problems as they may be too complex to comprehend. A pilot plant can be very helpful as far as minimising error is concerned. Therefore, experiments can be studied more thoroughly without posing a major risk. The pilot plant does not only provide data before increasing scale of production, it serves other function. This include:

Pilot Plant
Corrosion resistant

1. It helps in making an authentic comparison with commercial grade raw material against the grade counterpart in the laboratory. During a lab study, the use of raw material and catalyst is not very big. Therefore, a highly pure grade can be used for the experiment. However, when it comes to a production plant, using pure materials would be feasible. Commercial grade material is best used.

2. The plant can be used for the production of small product quantities which can be used as raw material for market testing. The plant can be used to produce quantities which can be used to study the reaction process which might follow. It is one of the best ways to test a product in the real market. Samples can be handed out to customers to gauge their reactions

3. The quality of waste and by-products can be studied, in addition to assessing their saleability.

4. Waste generated can also be studied to determine if waste treatment is necessary. This will help understand the economics associated with the process.

5. A pilot plant will help come up with a more detailed mass balance. It will allow companies to give yield estimates. Lab experiments normally generate a sizeable number of erroneous mass balances due to the fact that quantities are much smaller. When it gets down to a full-blown production, the values are much higher.

6. A pilot plant will give you the liberty of producing specialty chemicals that may be appreciated by a more niche market. Therefore, it can safely be said that a pilot plant can help a business go from lab testing to high production plant faster without posing much of a risk. It also aids in keeping in focus the economics involved in setting up a large scale production because corrosion-resistant products may not translate to saleability.

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