Flow Chemistry in a World-Scale-Factory
Micro reaction technology with future-oriented Advanced Process Control and Turn-Key-Concepts
An intermediate product for an active ingredient to promote plant growth will be produced in the plant close4 to Shanghai. The current planning provides for a world-scale plant for the production of a little more than 100,000 tons of intermediate product per year. This means that flow chemistry or microreaction technology (MRT) will have a new flagship in Asia, in addition to its previous presence in plants for specialty and fine chemicals, pharmaceutical chemistry and the production of lithium batteries. In addition to numerous development projects, well-known chemical companies in Europe and the USA also have specific plans for production reactors.
The Ehrfeld Mikrotechnik, Quast, DMT and Encos companies now offer not only basic process technology, but also services ranging from software simulation of the reactors to turnkey delivery of the reactors including the latest automation with Advanced Process Control (APC). The customer benefit here consists of the integrated approach of reactor expertise, process and automation know-how and international plant engineering expertise.
Safe, clean, fast: Aspects of Miprowa technology
MRT provides important impulses for making chemical process engineering plants more compact, more efficient and safer. Compared to classic reactors, the ratio of surface area to reaction volume is much greater. This allows reaction temperatures to be controlled in a targeted manner, undesired side reactions to be suppressed and the process time to be shortened significantly. In order to achieve production-relevant throughputs, the principle of microstructuring is transferred to structures in the millimeter range.
The technology developed by Ehrfeld Mikrotechnik combines these advantages with an integral scale-up concept that allows to determine all relevant reaction parameters on a laboratory scale (LAB) as well as the production-relevant properties (fouling and downtimes) on a pilot plant scale (Matrix ).
A special feature of the Miprowa technology are the rectangular reaction channels with typical cross-sectional dimensions of mm2 and 18 x 3,2 mm2 for the laboratory, pilot stage and production, which, with their particularly high surface area, are ideally suited for fast, highly exothermic and endothermic reactions. These reactors are made of materials such as stainless steel and Hastelloy to ensure the robustness required in production. Ehrfeld Mikrotechnik and its partners have developed the special know-how for the production process over many years and implemented it in many applications in fine and specialty chemistry, petrochemistry, polymer chemistry, as well as the food and cosmetics industry.
“By being used in a power-to-X context, MRT can make a valuable contribution to decarbonization“
With teamwork from batch to continuous production processes
For the scale-up step to production scale, Encos and Ehrfeld have developed simulation software as part of a joint R&D project. The test effort for process development and optimization can thus be significantly reduced. As a result, reactors from laboratory size to Miprowa production reactors with a production capacity of 10,000 t/a and more can now be scaled even more efficiently. Each of these reactors has a throughput of approx. 1 m³/h with a nominal diameter of 400 mm and a length of 7 m each, which makes them the largest millistructure reactors in the world. All the advantages of micro reaction technology are retained. This is mainly reflected in the highly efficient heat transfer, rapid mixing, defined and reproducible dwell times, simple process control and a low hold-up. The precise continuous process management, especially for reaction systems that are otherwise difficult to control, ensures a higher yield, paired with improved product quality and optimized plant safety. Due to the elimination of set-up times and reduced personnel requirements, the amortization times are minimal. In addition, a valuable contribution to decarbonization is also possible through use, for example in the “Power to X” context.
Economical reactor concept with a modular character
Ehrfeld´s reactor concept can be understood as a modular system, insofar as the production reactor as a whole typically consists of a series connection of several cores of standardized length. The reactor diameter depends on the throughput to be achieved: As a parameter for throughput scaling, the number of reactors operated in parallel can also be varied.
With MicroFit, Encos has a unique simulation software for Miprowa reactors, which allows reactor dimensioning based on reaction technology. In combination with the use of databased CapEx / OpEx calculation systems and the partially integrated evaluation of 3D layout variants, Encos, together with Ehrfeld, is able to develop the most economical solution for a large number of specific applications.
“A world-scale plant for the production of more than 100,000 tons of intermediate product per year is being built.“
Turn-key with APC
As part of their cooperation, the DMT Group and Encos pursue a division of labor that is geared towards the delivery of turnkey systems. Encos takes on the majority of the engineering under the umbrella of DMT, which as general contractor is responsible for procurement, assembly and commissioning in addition to project management. This includes the engineering for automation and the implementation of the instrumentation, regulation and control as well as the central control technology.
Using the concrete example of Ehrfeld's Miprowa technology, the main common thrust of plant construction is in the direction of batch-to-conti. Control technology is a primary component of automation. With a view to product quality and energy efficiency, the focus is increasingly on the adaptive optimizing effect of the APC.
Carmine Raffa, Head of Sales, and Anne Kaaden, Key Account Manager, Ehrfeld Mikrotechnik, Wendelsheim, Germany
This article will be published in CHEManager 8/2021 (German language).