Project Synopsis

Provide process engineering for a rubber industry research pilot-plant development project to produce rubber from dandelion roots including evaluating test data, custom unit operations design and test procedures, testing oversight, preliminary and detailed process design, oversight support of the detail engineering, procurement, installation, and startup. View OSU Press Release Article (Oct 2012) View Downstream Today Article (Aug 2014)

Project Summary

ALTERNATIVE NATURAL RUBBER PRODUCTION PILOT-PLANT PROCESS DESIGN

The client, a research group at Ohio State University, in joint cooperation with a tire industry consortium (PENRA), was seeking to develop a process to produce an alternate source of natural rubber from the roots of the Russian dandelion or Taraxacum kok-saghyz (TKS) plant. There are two competing processes at Ohio State to obtain natural rubber and latex from the TKS roots.  Natural rubber and latex are two different forms of rubber with different properties, different uses, and different markets.  Natural rubber is the more important product for tire companies, and is meant to compete directly with natural rubber obtained from the rubber tree plant.  Previous work on a process to obtain natural rubber from the TKS root had been done in the 1940s and some additional recent laboratory work had been conducted.  Process Engineering Associates, LLC (PROCESS) was contracted to lead the process design effort of a new pilot plant using modern technology.  PROCESS handled all process engineering portions of the project which encompassed evaluating old and new data, designing custom unit operations and test procedures, testing oversight, preliminary process design, and detailed process design, as well as providing assistance and oversight of the detail engineering, procurement, installation, and startup activities associated with the pilot plant.

During the initial phase of the project, PROCESS evaluated the existing lab and physical properties data related to the process, developed a preliminary simulation, and prepared an initial cost estimate of the process. Based on this work, it was determined that additional data were needed for the extraction unit and that this would be a custom piece of equipment.  PROCESS designed a single stage for the custom extractor, developed equipment specifications, and identified qualified fabricators.  PROCESS also identified and assisted in the selection of a detail design firm for the overall project (to install a pilot plant).  This firm finalized the extractor design prior to fabrication.  PROCESS wrote a test plan for the new extractor and oversaw the testing to generate the necessary missing data.  Based on this testing, it was determined this custom equipment could achieve the necessary performance needed to move forward with the project.

PROCESS developed a complete process design package for the pilot plant suitable for use by a detail design/construction contractor to finalize the design and construct the pilot plant.  The technical sections of a detail engineering bid package were written by, and bid inputs were provided by PROCESS

The final Process Design Package included the following information for the pilot plant:

  • Process design basis that set the baseline for the subsequent process design tasks
  • Process alternatives report that presented technical and economic evaluation of alternative processing schemes to be considered
  • PFDs and supporting heat and material balance calculations and computer process simulation program outputs
  • Process description, describing the contents of the PFDs
  • Process level P&IDs that clearly depict new equipment, piping, instrumentation, and controls
  • Process controls description, describing preliminary controls, monitoring points, alarms, and interlocks depicted in the P&IDs
  • Equipment layout sketch, showing a plan view of the major processing equipment
  • Equipment list that included a summary of the process duty specifications for all major equipment
  • Piping list that with pipe sizes and recommended materials of construction for all new piping required
  • Instrument list showing the new instruments and controls required
  • Equipment process duty specifications for all new process equipment items which included such items as a custom designed counter current extraction system, pebble mill, flotation tanks with flow rate controls, vibrating screens, and other solids handling equipment
  • Equipment purchase price cost summary table that indicated the estimated purchase price from U.S. suppliers for both major and minor equipment
  • Preliminary Statement of Work Document which represented the information for vendors, detail designers, and fabrication shops to determine if they were qualified and desired to bid on any or all aspects of the project to detail design, build, and install the pilot plant
  • Preliminary factored cost estimate report with estimates for the cost of detail engineering, procurement, and construction of the pilot plant as designed
  • Commercial order of magnitude operating cost estimate for the full scale (commercial) plant.

PROCESS remained available on the project during detail engineering to help ensure the process integrity was maintained.  During construction, PROCESS developed both commissioning and pilot test procedures.  After construction, PROCESS assisted with on-site support of the commissioning and pilot test trials.  Data was collected that confirmed the design and performance of the pilot plant and verified that all unit operations worked as expected.  Work continues with PROCESS providing assistance in the form of defining the needs for PLC configuration for differing modes of operation utilizing different feed stocks, etc.  Future work will include running the pilot plant at capacity once enough of the Russian dandelion plants can be grown and harvested.

Industry Type

  • Rubber Production

Utilized Skills

  • Pilot plant design
  • Custom unit operations design
  • Pilot plant testing support
  • Detail engineering and EPC oversight support

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