Ask An Engineer: What is the Main Concern With Chemical Process Scale Up?
Question: What is the main concern when you are working on a system for an industrial chemical plant?
Answer from Mike Wodicker, a process engineer at EPIC Systems:
The main focus that has to be taken into account when you are designing a system for a chemical process scale up is accounting for all process hazards and designing in the necessary safety measures. This comes with the territory of working with systems that are running under high temperatures and intense pressure. Working with flammables is dangerous, but this danger is amplified when a system operates with flammable chemicals at temperatures that exceed their flash point.
When working with flammable chemicals, a purge strategy should always be designed into each chemical pilot plant or distillation system. Typically, a purge system consists of eliminating the oxygen that is present in a system and displacing it with an inert gas like nitrogen. In a tank system, this could be a process as simple as shutting a lid and blowing the inert gas through the tank for a period of time. Another route that can be used is vacuum purging in which vacuum is used to pull out the air in system and replace it with nitrogen. This is the recommended method by Mike, but it requires a system to have a vacuum source, and properly rated vessels and equipment.
When designing a chemical pilot plant it is best to take your time and specify the proper vessels and purge strategy upfront. This will be a big relief when implementing said strategy down the road.
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