Project Synopsis

Provide process engineering services to develop an FEL-2.5 detailed process design package of a polyester polyol pilot unit suitable for competitive bidding to process skid fabricators.

Project Summary

Process Engineering Associates, LLC (PROCESS) developed an FEL-1 process design for a new commercial-scale polyol production facility for the client, a manufacturer of building materials.  Coincident with this work, the client continued in-house laboratory-scale development of their polyol process and conducted, via a third party, a small-scale reactor production run, and processed the polyol product in one of their commercial foam plants. In each endeavor, positive and promising results were obtained.

While the process development results were encouraging, it had been suggested that a polyol pilot unit be designed and built to verify and confirm performance and design elements of the process at a larger scale.  This is a routine and strategic step along the path to new product development.  A pilot-size reactor was therefore identified jointly by the client and PROCESS’ team to use as the basis for a pilot plant system.  The sizing scale up equates to approximately a 1:15 scale design, dead center in the traditional process-industry scale-up range of 1:10 to 1:20.

The client contracted PROCESS to provide engineering services for the process design of the polyester polyol pilot plant.  PROCESS’ scope was to provide a Process Design Package (PDP) for inclusion in the client’s competitively-bid RFP for a skid-mounted pilot unit.  The pilot plant is designed to produce variations of a single product, polyester polyol.  The heart of the plant consists of a jacketed (both heating and cooling) batch reactor.  The reactor is supported by an external heat exchanger (for both heating and cooling), pumps, condensers, a rectification column as well as a stripping column, and a vacuum system.

The primary purpose of the pilot system was to confirm cycle time and verify key process design items such as column hydraulics, heat transfer coefficients during reactor heating/cooling, and the extent of dioxane formation.  The skid will also be used to optimize the polyol production process.  In the future, the skid could also be used to develop alternative polyol formulations and obtain FM and UL approvals prior to a full-scale unit being built.  The skid-mounted equipment would be easily relocated and used as needed in the development of other product formulations.

Heat and material balance (H&MB) tables and a Process Flow Diagrams (PFD) were developed for the pilot configuration.  The PFD was used to generate Piping and Instrumentation Drawings (P&IDs) for the unit.  The P&IDs and H&MB data were used to develop equipment specifications.  The specifications were generated with enough detail for a detail design firm to procure equipment supply proposals.  All process equipment, valves, and instrumentation were tagged and compiled in tabular format.

At the time of writing this document, the client was in the process of preparing and submitting an RFP for the skid-mounted pilot facility.

Industry Type

Construction Materials Production

Utilized Skills

  • Pilot-plant design
  • Detailed process design
  • Scale up process design

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