21/03/2017

THE BRIDGE FROM SCIENCE TO INDUSTRY: WHERE TECHNOLOGIES BEING SCALED IN MODERN RUSSIA

The Soviet Union had a clearly defined working system of connecting science and industry, where new developments were first tested on a pilot plant and upon successful tests were transferred to the production. With the collapse of the USSR, this connecting link disappeared. Where and how new technologies in the chemical industry are being developed and scaled today, we will tell you using our own example.
Today, few companies can boast of having a dedicated 'bridge' site between science and industry. In Russia, when there were no engineering centers, the laboratory protocols were often transferred directly to the manufacturer who attempted to incorporate the new developments into their production system, quite obviously, oftentimes with lamentable results.

Having achieved a good result in the lab at a smaller scale, it is further required to adjust the parameters to adequately describe the processes at a larger scale and fit them into the existing production system. To be able to make such adjustments, our Center rents a pilot production site at Berezovaya.
Berezovaya is a facility with over 200 units of equipment, occupying an area of three thousand square meters formally divided into six sections. The site was established six years ago for the glyoxal synthesis. Gradually, meeting the needs of the chemical industry for a variety of products, the application of the site expanded. Over time, the site has been integrating more and more solutions, so that it is currently possible to set up, scale, and test any chemical processes there.
In order to test its engineering solutions, the ECTC rents an area of about 100 square meters at Berezovaya site and has access to all on-site equipment. The mode of our operation on this site is basically very simple. Based on the laboratory protocols, we calculate the required equipment and run the process at different scales, from the smaller to the larger, depending on the technical specifications.

Suppose, for example, we are handed over a synthesis technology developed at the lab level. We can scale it up to 100-1000 tons. This is sufficient to obtain all the data required to further transfer the technology to the production level. To this end, we have practically all equipment for performing chemical processes. In a systemized way it can be grouped as follows:

Vessels: made of steel and plastic with a volume of one to tens cubic meters.
Chemical reactors come in various volumes and properties: mall glass ones from 5 liters, 10−15 liters, and 1 m3 vat reactor closing the line of available reactors. Having received the lab protocols, we pick up a suitable small reactor to run the process, following that a decision is made to choose either 1m3 or 5 m3 reactor.
To separate liquid from sediment, we use centrifuges: vertically or horizontally mounted, of different powers, degrees of dispersity and separation, German or Chinese make.
For separation of liquids, we have both column equipment with the power of up to 30 kg/h and rotary film evaporators at 100−300 l/h, as well as small cyclic ones.
Any production requires auxiliary equipment to provide gases and various liquids. To this end, there are powerful water cleaning systems for 5 m3 vessels and a nitrogen generating system. The gas is distributed over the site pipeline system.
There are also vacuum, vertical, rotary driers; industrial cabinet driers operating in the range of the room temperature to 300 °C; muffle furnaces for intensive heat treatment processes at up to 1000 °С.
There are tumbling barrels used to mix dry products.
Any process must be constantly monitored, so no production site can go without some sort of control system. To this end, there are skillful operators, automatic sensors, valves and regulators. All these 'bells and whistles' greatly facilitate the work, which would otherwise have to be done manually with a 'paddle'.
The work safety is not left out of the picture either: there are present suction-and-exhaust ventilation to provide the flow of fresh air, as well as fire and gas alarm systems.
Our employees constantly supervise the project work on-site. Over the two-year period at Berezovaya, the ECTC implemented more than 20 technologies. Not bad, wouldn’t you say?
One of these projects deals with the production of melamine polyphosphate. An entrepreneur approached us with the problem. To solve it, we concluded a contract with our research partner, the Chemical Center at TSU, and within 6−7 months, the scientists developed a technique to synthesize the product and produced a sample. The obtained data were further sent for industrial testing which was successfully passed. At the final stage, technical specifications were drawn up.

The ECTC engineers, having studied the process of synthesis, selected the equipment required for running this process at our pilot production site; completed three test runs in a 50-liter glass reactor during about ten days; checked the product quality and behavior and, upon positive approval, bypassing the 1 m3 reactor stage, moved straight to the syntheses in the 5 m3 reactor. The product, by the way, required a separate stage of the heat treatment. To date, all tests are practically completed and the customer signed a shipment agreement for over three tons of the product a month.
One of our recent projects is related to scaling and accrual of plasticizers for the polymer industry. Our center carries out several types of work: accrual of a test batch of plasticizers and collecting the initial data for designing a large-scale production.

«
The NIOST company has been engaged in this activity for some time. Its employees developed the laboratory protocols and methods but in order to professionally implement the scaling stage, SIBUR would have to set up another department. They found the way out by contacting us to resolve the problem. The whole project has a very tight time frame: to be completed in six months all in all. For the setup and the very synthesis, it is allocated one and a half month. A cruel time limit, but we will work closely with NIOST.

To implement the process, we will require a specialized equipment not currently available on the site: synthesis reactors, columns, etc. Based on the provided initial data, we calculate the required equipment and create mathematical models of the process. Taking into account the obtained numbers and the power values, we will design and install the necessary equipment. As a result, we will create five plasticizers of the production power over seven tons. Based on the results of this work, it will be possible to arrive at the conclusion whether it is feasible to manufacture Russian´s own plasticizers. It is noteworthy that NIOST was approaching both foreign and Russian partners with this problem, but our proposal suited them best.

«
In short, the project algorithm is as such: calculate the equipment, prepare for the equipment installation, install the equipment, control and safety systems, start accruing the five products in turns, one after another.

Without any degree of beatification, one can say that thanks to Berezovaya and the skill of our specialists, we are able to realize all processes pertaining to chemical industry and in a timely manner set up pilot facilities. With the required set of equipment, skilled and experienced personnel, one can speedily mount the equipment for modeling any chemical processes.

We are prepared to face any difficulties. Are you?
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