(21b) Managing Heat Loss in Pilot Plant Operations to Simulate Full Scale Operation

Nunley, R. - Presenter, Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research & Innovation Center (MATRIC)
Pilot plant operations present unique challenges regarding heat loss to the environment. The volume of chemicals and sizes of the equipment typically result in a high surface to volume ratio that results in excessive heat losses. Understanding and managing these heat losses (or gains for cold services) is critical to successful scale-up as the losses or gains from the atmosphere can be a significant part of the plant’s energy balance.

For example, a 2” distillation column with no heat tracing is likely to lose heat to the atmosphere, resulting in cooling on each tray and giving a false result when interpreting the separations data and trying to fit it to process models. Heat tracing the column on the other hand, if not done correctly, will result in hot spots in the column and similarly poor matches to process models. If the thermophysical properties are adjusted to match the columns in these conditions, the result could be a poor model that is used for scale-up to the full commercial process. The result can easily be a commercial column that doesn’t perform as expected.

This presentation will explore similar past experiences with heat transfer to the atmosphere in small scale equipment and some of the more successful methods to understand or mitigate these effects.