RAPID’s Quest for Intensification


These and other RAPID-funded ventures could transform industry by making chemical processes cleaner, smaller, safer, and more energy-efficient.

Process intensification (PI) has existed for many years, but it first gained significant attention in the 1970s, when process developers began seeking new ways to improve cost and energy efficiency in industrial plants. The concept is broad — PI encompasses any chemical engineering innovation that creates a smaller, cleaner, safer, or more energy-efficient technology. Over the past decades, there has been renewed interest in PI in Europe, Asia, and the U.S.

But there are several barriers to deploying PI. Companies are often wary of the cost and risk associated with committing to new processes not yet proven on a commercial scale, and intensified systems can sometimes be too complex for easy implementation. In addition, researchers in this field often lack sufficient software or modeling tools to accurately predict the efficiency of novel technologies. Underlying these challenges is a limited understanding of PI across key sectors of the chemical process industries (CPI).

The U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) established the Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) Manufacturing Institute in December 2016, with the goal to double U.S. energy productivity by 2030. RAPID focuses on reducing barriers to establish PI, and addresses the development and deployment of PI technologies in domestic industries such as oil and gas, pulp and paper, and other specialty and commodity chemical sectors. RAPID hopes to leverage process intensification to help U.S. manufacturers improve productivity and efficiency, save energy, reduce waste, and cut capital and operating costs.

Modularization is another emerging trend in industry that breaks down chemical processes and facilities into functional building blocks or modules that can simplify design and construction. While PI techniques and modular process technologies can be implemented separately, RAPID also promotes the use of both concepts simultaneously, focusing on modular chemical process intensification (MCPI).

Author Bios: 

Nidhi Sharma

Nidhi Sharma is the assistant news editor for CEP magazine, AIChE’s flagship publication in New York City. She writes mainly for the news section and covers up and coming research as well as prominent scientists — she also writes longform feature articles that cover environmental and social topics. She graduated with a B.S. in biology and journalism from the University of Richmond, and has experience in both science journalism and cultural/political journalism. When she's not writing, she enjoys nature and traveling.

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