Pilot Plants: Informing and Improving the Scale-Up Process

In the chemical industry, large manufacturing facilities are not built haphazardly, but instead require much planning and testing before production level plants can be established. Much of the technical know-how is derived from the operation of pilot-scale facilities prior to the design of large plants.

This MATRIC technician operates a smaller pilot unit, providing data on conditions to be used in design of a commercial plant.

This MATRIC technician operates a smaller pilot unit, providing data on conditions to be used in design of a commercial plant.

The pilot plant stage is the step beyond the laboratory that provides critical data for equipment scale-up, process control, and the impact of process recycle streams. Piloting implements the processes conducted at the bench level, but within a larger integrated system, which simulates the conditions that would be experienced in a full commercial plant.

Not all companies have the internal expertise to determine how their technologies can be effectively scaled-up and what the optimal operating conditions should be.

MATRIC | Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research & Innovation Center is an organization versed in helping customers move from concept to commercialization, by customizing pilot and demonstration facilities.

MATRIC’s team of professional researchers and engineers determine the technical and economic feasibility of a chemical process, then verify such at the pilot plant stage. This work model creates a flexible system that provides extensive benefits to customers like BioAmber.

This pilot phase is particularly valuable because:

  • It reduces risk, allowing for design changes that can be made more cheaply at this scale before building a larger version.
  • It provides data regarding reactions, equipment design, material properties, corrosiveness, product quality, etc., which allows engineers to refine the design of a production scale facility.
  • It provides ongoing support, allowing companies to test ideas for new products, new feedstocks, or different operating conditions.

— For more information regarding MATRIC’s technology assessment or pilot plant capabilities, contact Duane Dombek, Ph.D., MATRIC’s director of process and product R&D.