A Technology Whose Use is Indispensable
Ralf Boehling, senior manager Process Development, Process Screening/Kinetics Lab, BASF
The existing market situation has already led to a shift in strategy from large quantity chemicals to highly innovative specialties. For many syntheses you can use classical batch vessel. But if you are handling highly toxic, hazardous substances or the syntheses have to run under high pressure, high temperature or the products are thermally unstable, or the syntheses includes a gas phase step, you preferably have to work under continuous flow conditions. So, for BASF there is a need to open these process windows. But one of the major problems to face is that the process development for a continuous plant from lab to production plant is not quick enough and causes high development cost. Additionally, it takes a long time for construction and building the technical plant. Especially for small scale plants the cost is prohibitive if building the plant traditionally on site step by step. This, however, severely increases the investment risk for new products because the market needs and price structures cannot be realistically foreseen. Therefore, to shorten the process development time and to reduce cost and time for building small scale continuous plants is a platitude but of course is the key for new innovative processes, reactors and products.