Project Synopsis

Develop process design information needed to assist a polyurethane manufacturer in switching over an existing process from using water to using a hydrocarbon based material as the foam ‘blowing agent’.

Project Summary


The client is a manufacturer of polyurethane foam sleep products (mattresses, pillows, and other padded items) for both consumer and commercial customers.  Multiple manufacturing locations in the U.S. utilize “pour lines” to generate large polyurethane foam blocks, which are then cut into the sizes required for the various products.  The production of polyurethane foam requires a “blowing agent” to create voids in the foam material, which in turn sets the finished foam density.  Currently the client uses water as a blowing agent but wants to switch to hydrocarbon based solution, which would generate a different density foam with improved mechanical properties for the client’s customers.  As a first step, the client contracted Process Engineering Associates, LLC (PROCESS) to generate a process design for hydrocarbon blowing agent unloading and storage at one of its U.S. sites.  In addition, the client asked PROCESS to determine the scope of facility and equipment modifications required for the use of the hydrocarbon as a blowing agent instead of water, in light of the increased flammability hazards.

Specific tasks for this project included:

  • PROCESS visited the site visit for a Project Kickoff Meeting as well as a field walkdown to examine the layout and equipment characteristics of the existing facility. The project encompassed several areas inside and outside the manufacturing building: the pour line used to generate the foam blocks; the area used to store the foam blocks; an area used to cut the foam blocks into the final products; and areas for chemical unloading and storage.
  • Development of a Process Design Basis, which identified the parameters needed to determine the facility, ventilation, equipment, and electrical and instrumentation changes that would be needed
  • Preparation of a Preliminary Mass and Energy Balance and Process Flow Diagram depicting the major equipment needed for unloading, storage, and use of the hydrocarbon at the facility
  • An assessment of building ventilation needs and electrical area classifications that would be needed to meet the requirements of certain IBC, NFPA, and OSHA standards pertaining to building design, storage and use of toxic, reactive, and flammable chemicals, and worker exposure limits
  • Generation of a major Equipment List containing preliminary major equipment sizing and duty requirements
  • Development of a Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM) Capital Cost Estimate to document a Total Installed Cost (TIC) estimate for facility and equipment modifications
  • Generation of a Final Report, documenting the input information utilized as well as the conclusions reached by the study.

As part of the effort for this project, PROCESS subcontracted a detail engineering firm to help develop the ROM Capital Cost estimate based on facility, equipment, ventilation, and electrical area classification changes identified by PROCESS. The engineering company’s cost estimate was based on Unit of Measure (UOM) estimates for labor and materials, as well as select vendor quotes.

Industry Type

  • Urethane Foam Products Manufacturing

Utilized Skills

  • In-plant process design modifications
  • Process building ventilation systems evaluation and design.

Contact Us