(645a) Toll Manufacturing: A Sharing-Economy Model for on-Demand Chemical Production Services

Authors: 
Arora, A., Texas A&M University
Hasan, M. M. F., Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering, Texas A&M University
A toll manufacturing-based economy is touted as the next era of chemical processing wherein toll manufacturers provide critical on-demand chemical production services in return of a fee or toll. Compared to traditional chemical industries where plant owners are both investors and operators, toll manufacturing is based on a sharing-economy model involving two parties – toll manufacturers and consumers. The services provided by toll manufacturers include specialized equipment, multi-purpose processes and manufacturing facilities whereas consumers provide the necessary raw material and/or intermediate feedstocks. For the consumers, this model is especially advantageous as they can significantly reduce time-to-market, promptly respond to market dynamics and test new feedstocks and products without long-term investments on equipment, labor and expertise.

From toll manufacturers’ viewpoint, multi-purpose or flexible processes are preferred during chemical manufacturing as different products can be produced from same or different feedstocks. Typically, multi-purpose chemical plants have been shown to be more economically profitable for specialty chemicals such as pharmaceuticals, paper and polymers. These specialty chemicals are manufactured in small amounts, and therefore, multi-purpose plants have shown promise to react faster to dynamic market conditions. On the other hand, dedicated single-functional plants are more economically attractive for large-scale production of chemicals. Continuing with this understanding, with increasing amounts of small-scale and stranded natural gas resources, the need of multi-functional plants for small-scale gas processing will be apparent in the near future.

In the chemical space, toll manufacturing, in particular, requires process agility and flexibility which can lead to quick process transitions in response to market needs. This feature demands the design and operation of reconfigurable, switchable and flexible plants, which poses significant new challenges in the areas of process design, synthesis, scheduling, and transition control. This presentation will discuss and demonstrate how process systems engineering principles can be applied for addressing some of these challenges.