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Innovative small-scale chemical plants

An EU-funded project succeeded in embedding a chemical plant in a 3x12 m container, making it more capable of adapting to market trends. In addition, the small-scale plant is bringing process and product innovations faster to market.

Industrial Technologies

In view of new emerging markets and production capabilities in Asia, the European chemical market is currently under considerable cost and ecological pressure. Improving conventional production processes is not sufficient anymore. Instead, process intensification is a paradigm shift to increase competitiveness and sustainability of chemical processes. The EU-funded project COPIRIDE (Combining process intensification-driven manufacture of microstructured reactors and process design regarding to industrial dimensions and environment) worked on developing new technologies, processes and manufacturing concepts for the 'plant of the future' for the chemical industry. COPIRIDE developed new modular miniaturised reactors – microreactors – designed for these garage-sized plants to enable process intensification. The unique feature of this next-generation container is its ability to be used anywhere. Measuring only 3x12 m, the container holds everything needed for production reactors, process control technology, information technology modules, and storage space for feedstocks. In addition, it has elements for fire protection, escape doors and catch basins. The supply system for water, process gases, electricity, heat and data lines is designed in such a way that it can theoretically host any chemical reactions. Project partners pushed forward new production plant concepts to demonstrate the microreactor technology. A pilot plant was set up to allow researchers to explore the feasibility of producing biodiesel from waste oils in supercritical conditions. The gasification of biomass to produce chemicals and ammonia was also trialled. In addition, the project team sought to improve processing approaches. They introduced a newly developed concept – novel process windows – to speed up reactions through a highly intensified approach. COPIRIDE technology should enable the chemical industry to manufacture products faster, more flexibly and more sustainably. The new plant concepts should contribute to the move towards adaptive production, boosting the competitiveness of the European chemical industry.

Keywords

Chemical plant, small-scale plant, process intensification, microstructured reactors, chemical industry

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