EPIC Systems’ engineering team helped the client design a modular ion exchange chemical pilot plant to upgrade a proprietary process to the commercial level. The system was fabricated by EPIC in a short project schedule due to a customer specified timeline.
CLIENT: A Fortune 500 company
INDUSTRY: Agricultural Products | Chemicals
KEY ENGINEERING FEATURES:
- Project scope: Turnkey modular chemical pilot plant, piping, instrumentation, design, fabrication, installation and start-up.
- Proprietary client technology never disclosed; EPIC worked with a client provided sequence of operations to build the plant
- Batch reactor system
- Scale-up of R&D process to commercial level with industrial grade system components
- Many instrumentation points and several sampling points
- Low-flow highly corrosive chemical process
- Corrosive chemical effluent treatment system
- Elaborate piping specification requirements due to highly corrosive chemical process
- Small process footprint
- Industrial specifications for instrumentation and equipment
- Low flow, highly corrosive chemicals
- Proprietary technology
- Unique piping specifications – overhead and low piping, PVC piping and custom Teflon lined piping, exotic metal requirements, etc…
- Lots of instrumentation points
- Flexible engineering and fabrication for evolving specification provided by client during build
- EPIC made continuous customer requested design & specification changes through-out the build process & into FAT stage of the project.
- Safety issues, especially at sampling points
- Waste processing of corrosive chemicals
- Tight customer schedule
- Functional FAT at EPIC’s facility for water batching & equipment/instrumentation verification.
AN EPIC SOLUTION
The client was unable to disclose the proprietary chemical technology to EPIC. A sequence of operations was provided with specification for flexible design and build changes throughout the process. In the design stages of the project, EPIC recommended the following design parameters:
- A modular build approach for the pilot plant to reduce time, cost and footprint
- Hastelloy, PVC, Teflon lined, welded carbon steel, welded stainless steel, and stainless steel Swagelok piping, fiberglass tanks, and custom built flanges to meet customer specified industrial grade materials for corrosive chemicals
- Custom designed customer access points for maintaining equipment and obtaining samples
- Special flow meters to accommodate low flow and multiple sampling points
- Bubbler system to ascertain liquid levels inside tanks
- Closed sampling boxes for safe sampling procedures
- Hard piped and tied drains collecting waste in gravity pit for further processing before release
- Industrial conduit & electrical installations for plant requirements
The Final Solution
EPIC utilized the client provided sequence of operations to build the modular chemical pilot plant. Based on a 3D model designed by EPIC’s process & mechanical engineers, the pilot plant was able to fit in the required small footprint. Also, extensive design efforts were included by EPIC’s Automation Controls & Instrumentation Engineers for the large amount of control systems.
A highly corrosive acid was the main component of the system. To meet the industrial grade requirements of the client, EPIC used a variety of atypical materials in the fabrication of the pilot plant. Hastelloy and Teflon lined lines and other piping specifications were used throughout, along with fiberglass tanks. PVC and Teflon lined piping required custom built flanges by EPIC due to tight tolerance specifications. The highly corrosive nature of the material, combined with the low flow rate demanded installation of unique flow meters.
The pilot system required measurement at many instrumentation points, including: flow, temperature, pressure and chemical level in the tanks. EPIC installed a bubbler system to allow for easier and constant measurement of the liquid level. Compressed air was released into the bottom of tanks, and based on the resulting level, the liquid level was calculated.
The ion exchange process was kept proprietary by the client, but EPIC designed the base system and implemented the sequence of operations. The basic process included chemicals mixed together and run across a catalyst and resins. This allowed ions to be exchanged and altered the chemical make-up of the mixture.
Many samples were taken from the process. EPIC installed closed sampling boxes to maintain high safety standards for the system. Taking a sample involved a simple process During setup, EPIC monitored the process. The operator turned the flow valve on by placing a receptacle inside the sampling box and closing the door. The operator viewed the liquid fill level of the receptacle through a Plexiglas window. The box could not be opened while the flow valve was exposed.
Waste and discharge from the system were routed through hard piping to a gravity pit where waste was neutralized before being removed as hazardous waste.
This pilot plant was the intermediate step before a large industrial, international process plant was built for this technology. The many sampling and instrumentation points allowed the client to collect the necessary date for a larger industrial scale operation.
- Successfully upgraded the client process from research and development to commercialized pilot plant
- Allowed for easy collection of necessary data for industrial level evaluations
- Cost justification for process through modular savings and information collection abilities
- 12-18 months of successful pilot plant run-time before the process was converted to industrial
ADVANTAGES TO MODULAR FABRICATION
EPIC used a value engineering approach to save the client time and money. Our modular fabrication approach to process systems has many advantages, the main points of which are highlighted below. To learn specifically how modular fabrication achieves these benefits, please visit our Advantages of Modular Fabrication page.
- Reduced cost
- Higher quality construction
- Faster time to market
- Improved safety
- Less resource requirements
- Lowered safety exposure in customer’s plant environment