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Pilot Plant FAQ: Common Questions & Answers

Below are some common pilot plant questions and their answers. To discuss your specific project, please call EPIC to speak to pilot plant expert: (314) 845-0077.

What are the steps for getting a custom pilot plant designed and built?

The first step is to find a process scale-up and pilot plant expert, like EPIC Modular Process. In finding that partner, you should consider their in-house capabilities, ask for relevant project examples of similar projects, and learn about their specific process for developing your pilot. You may also want to consider using an NDA before disclosing specific’s about your process technology.

EPIC's general pilot plant development process includes the following steps:

  1. Pilot plant concept development and front-end engineering – We will thoroughly discuss your system concept and requirements with you. You will share details of your process technology, and we will help you develop finished process flow diagrams (PFD)’s, piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&ID’s), and other basic system requirements. We will go over process flow, basic system layout, proposed location, safety considerations, cost and time constraints, etc.
  2. Detailed design – during this phase, P&ID’s are finalized, equipment selection is made, and a 2D design is developed. The conversations started in front-end engineering are put to paper and continue to evolve.
  3. 3D modeling and simulation – using a professional program like Aspen Plus or HYSYS,  EPIC will mathematically simulate your process through several iterations, to test process parameters at the proposed system size. During this simulation many of the challenges to process scale-up are explored and resolved. Process parameters and finalized material balances are complete.
  4. Fabrication and assembly – the system is built and assembled in our fabrication plant, by our professional fabrication team. Fabrication in the controlled environment of our shop ensures higher quality construction, a shorter overall project timeline, and safer working environment with lower risk for you.
  5. Shipment and testing – The completed pilot plant will be full tested before shipment ensuring a short start-up at your facility and minimal interruption to existing processes. Testing will ensure the pilot system functions correctly, including controls, safety devices and shut-down/start-up procedures.
  6. Installation and Commissioning – Onsite installation is completed by EPIC at your facility. Once the pilot system is up and running at your plant, full system check-out will be completed with punch-list resolution.  Operator and maintenance training are also performed onsite,  and all project documentation is handed over. We make sure you know how to run your new pilot plant and perform basic troubleshooting procedures before commissioning is complete.
  7. Support – After we turn the system over, you can still count on us to be there when you need it. Call EPIC: 314-845-0077 or email us at: [email protected]

What does a pilot plant cost?

The cost of a pilot plant will vary widely from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars and depends on several factors. The main determinate will be how large and complicated the process design is: the more process steps involved, the more equipment, design work and fabrication time required.  A few specific things to consider:

Specific cost factors

  1. How  harsh are your operating conditions? Extreme pressure (high or low) or temperature requirements (high or low) will require special operating conditions and more equipment, pushing the cost up.
  2. Will highly corrosive chemicals be involved or unusual materials of construction required? Highly destructive chemicals will mean special materials of construction must be used to avoid pipe, tank and system corrosion. Anytime you move away from standard materials of construction (steel, plastic, aluminum) to specialized alloys or titanium, the price of equipment will often double or triple.
  3. How precisely do you want to measure data and/or control specific parameters? Temperature, pressure, and flow are examples of common measurements taken inside pilot systems. The more micro you require the data to be (1.0 vs. 1.011 vs. 1.011111), the more expensive it will be to acquire the measurement. Similarly, the more control you want to have over system factors (I want to be able to increase temperature 1 degree at a time vs. 10 degrees at a time), the more expensive the instrumentation and control system will be.
  4. How big is the production capacity? This is pretty straight forward. The more end-product you want to produce, the larger the system has to be, and the more expensive it will be.
  5. How heavy will the utilities usage be? The amounts of required cooling water, nitrogen, air, electricity, steam, etc., and how much at a time needs to be pulled into the system, is another major cost determinant. For example, if your system has a re-boiler, you will need high steam pressure (i.e. lots of steam) coming into the pilot plant to keep the re-boiler running. The pilot skid will need extra equipment or larger equipment to accommodate the re-boilers steam demands. In addition, is your facility where the pilot plant will be installed equip to meet that demand or are on-site modifications required?

What should I know about my process technology before contacting a pilot plant designer?

You must bring your base process technology to a pilot plant designer. You should know or have basic versions of the following:

Basic process requirements

  • A basic mass and energy balance
  • A licensed or finalized technology with clear processing steps
  • A basic process flow diagram

COMING SOON….

How long will it take to get a completed pilot plant?

Is a pilot plant a good way to prove my process technology?

Can I fit a pilot plant into my existing space? What if my space is limited?

What documents and deliverables come with a pilot plant?

What data can I get from a pilot plant? 

What is a modular pilot plant vs. a regular pilot plant?

 

 

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