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(596a) Application of Intensified Equipment in Modular Processes

Bramsiepe, C., TU Dortmund University
Schembecker, G., TU Dortmund University
Seifert, T., TU Dortmund
Sievers, S., Bayer Technology Services GmbH

In the recent years markets for chemical and pharmaceutical products have become more and more volatile. At the same time raw material prices have been increasing so that flexible and efficient production processes have become strictly required. Here process intensification can offer opportunities for a more efficient utilization of raw materials. However process intensified technologies are often limited in throughput. Especially when parallelization or numbering up is required to prepare technically relevant production capacities, loss of economies of scale can compensate advantages of improved operating cost.

Modular equipment prepares the opportunity to build processes quickly and in multiple small scale units. This helps reducing lead times which can substantially improve Net Present Value (NPV). As could be shown in [1,2], a lead time reduction from three years in the reference scenario to one year in the modular scenario can result in an NPV improvement of more than 25 percent. Moreover does the application of modular equipment allow for precise adaption of production capacity to market development. A new production unit will only be installed given suitable market development. As could be shown in [3], this approach can make small scale modular production competitive to large scale conventional production even if benefits from process intensification are not taken into consideration.  Additionally can the break-even point be shifted severely. Depending on the scenario under consideration a reduction from six years to approximately one year could be achieved. This helps reducing investment risks. Combining the advantages of intensified and modular production technologies thus seems a promising approach. Nevertheless, whether such a production technology can prepare a significant economic advantage over conventional technologies does not only depend on investment and operating costs but also on a suitable market environment. Consequently the full benefit of this approach can only be revealed if production costs, investment costs and market development are investigated simultaneously.

However a combined calculation of investment and production costs together with an investigation of market development is not yet state of the art. To close this gap a tool has been developed at the Laboratory of Plant and Process Design at TU Dortmund within the F3 Factory project, a transnational European research project. For early investigations short cut simulation models are prepared within the tool. If more detailed information is available and more complex calculations are required an interface to external programs, e.g. Aspen Plus®, is available. Based on process simulation results an estimation of equipment dimensions can be performed followed by a calculation of both investment and operating costs including required personnel. A market scenario can be defined and the economic behavior of the process under investigation can be analyzed. Performing all these investigations within one single tool, allows for statistical analyses applying screening methods like Morris-one-at-a-time method [4]. With this approach parameters with great impact on the calculation result can be identified. This can help process developers identify parameters crucial for economic success and thus reduce development time and costs.

In the presentation the tool and its application will be presented using hydroformylation of propylene as a process example. The state-of-the-art process will be analyzed and drivers for the application of intensified modular production technologies will be demonstrated using NPV calculation. An innovative production technology will be introduced that uses a mass transfer intensified reaction system and cold separation technology. Economic benefits in terms of investment and operating costs will be shown and the ability to adapt production capacities to market requirements will be demonstrated. Both production approaches will be investigated in several market environments. The impact of process intensification and modularity will be demonstrated separately. It will be shown how statistical investigations can serve for technology comparison and thus support target-oriented process development.

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community‘s 7th Framework Programme under grant agreement n° 228867.


[1]          C. Bramsiepe et al., Chemical Engineering and Processing 51 (2012) 32– 52
[2]          T. Seifert et al., Chemical Engineering and Processing 52 (2012) 140– 150
[3]          S.Lier, M. Gruenewld, Chemical Engineering and Technology 34 (2011) 809–816
[4]          Morris, M. D., Factorial Sampling Plans for Preliminary Computational Experiments, TECHNOMETRIX, pp. 161-174, 1991.