Process integration in chemical manufacturing & engineering

A popular myth most people aware of Process Integration is that they compare it with the design of heat exchanger networks. As a fact, the design of heat exchanger networks is a part of Process Integration, the entire spectrum of process integration is however far wider.

The sole objective of Process Integration is the design & optimization of integrated chemical manufacturing systems. The execution of Process Integration initiates with the selection of series of processing steps & their interconnection to produce a streamlined manufacturing system which transforms raw materials into desired products.

Process Integration does not stop with the synthesis of process flow sheets for individual processes. Individual processes typically operate as part of an integrated manufacturing unit consisting of a number of processes controlled by a common utility system. Linking processes to the common utility system creates interactions between the different processes through the utility system. If understood properly, these interactions can be used to maximize the performance of the site as a whole. Moreover, to enhance & ensure that maximum efficiency is utilized, the steps taken by individual processes on a site to exchange materials can be customized.

Chemical processing industry is growing alarmingly & is becoming an adherent part of sustainable industrial activity. This means making use of raw materials as efficiently & as economical and practical in order to:

  • Prevent the production of waste than can be harmful to environment
  • Preserve the source of raw materials as much as possible

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Chemical processing tips:

  • Energy should be used efficiently, not only to reduce costs, but to prevent the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels and to preserve the reserves of fossil fuels.
  • Water should be consumed in sustainable quantities that does not cause any deterioration in the quality of the water source or the long-term quantity of the reserves.
  • Aqueous and atmospheric emissions must not be environmental harmful and solid waste to land film must be avoided.
  • Finally, all aspects of industrial activity must feature good health and safety practices.

Process integration is more than just pinch technology & design of heat exchanger networks. It has far wider scope and touches every area of process design. Switched-on industries are making more money from their raw materials & capital assets while becoming cleaner & more sustainable.

Trends in process integration:

Current methods still attempt wherever possible to use a 2-step approach to design. Initially, performance targets are set to scope & screen options. Once these important options have been screened, a design method is used to achieve targets.

In the future, there’s a high probability that the boundary between targets & design will be blurred & these will be based on more structural data regarding process networks.

It is also more likely that we get to see a wider range of applications being used for process integration. There is still immense work to be carried out in the area of separation; not only in complex distillation systems, but also in mixed type of separation systems. The use of process integration techniques for reactor design has seen rapid progress, but still there’s plenty to discover. There’s also a huge demand for process integration being applied to process operations keeping in mind safety & control.

The next trend of software tools for process integration is going to be a big wave in the chemical processing industry. While simulation tools are becoming quite mature & well developed, process integration software so far is just in its infancy stage. Developments in software leading to open-architecture will allow process integration software to interact online with simulation software to access physical property data & simulation models.

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