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How to successfully scale-up bio-based processes to a full-scale plant Bio-based Engineering Factories

A new playing field

The bio-based economy promises new value chains, a competitive edge and a new playing field. Scaling-up bio-based processes and applications from a pilot plant to a full-scale plant has specific challenges. How do you successfully complete such a process? Ruud Verheul, Senior Project Manager at Iv-Industrie, provides coaching to ensure that innovation processes result in a convincing business case. A clear procedure supports the development of innovations from the R&D to the engineering phase in order to arrive at the appropriate scale.
 
Bio-based business development is mainly about engineering new processes and applications and it can be very difficult to scale-up from a pilot plant to a full-scale factory. Scaling-up results in new, often physical challenges whereby bio-based processes pose their own specific challenges, because they make use of biomass with a varying composition.

From scientific approach to practical engineering

During the conceptual engineering phase, Iv-Industrie challenges the process owner to develop the scientific approach into a practical engineering solution. In this phase, the technology developed in a laboratory or pilot plant is being recorded in flow charts and a Basis of Design, which will subsequently be optimised for upscaling to the desired production capacity.
 
It is important to always start with gaining familiarity with the technology. Iv-Industrie, therefore, starts by consulting the pre-engineering documentation and submitting relevant questions to the customer project team. Thereafter, the draft process design will be prepared. This is done using a Basis of Process Design (BoPD), a mass and energy balance, a Process Flow Diagram (PFD), and Piping & Instrumentation Diagrams (P&IDs). A summarised process description is part of the BoPD. These documents are created in close collaboration with the process owner. Following a review of the process design, this phase is concluded by ‘freezing’ the draft process design. The work on the draft process design is also partly carried out on location.
 

What if you encounter an obstacle on the way?

One of the biggest challenges is translating the process technology developed in a laboratory or pilot plant into concrete engineering documents. Sometimes the team has made good progress, but then encounters an obstacle along the way. We then usually call in another practically-minded process engineer who shifts the focus from technology to realisation. We know from experience that the draft process design will require optimisation after the first design freeze, so we continue developing the process design in the draft design phase of the other disciplines.
 
Upon conclusion of the draft design process for all technical disciplines, a design review and safety study are conducted and a value engineering session is held. At these sessions, the elaborated process design is combined with the draft designs produced by the other disciplines and the overall design is optimised for the business case. After the results of these sessions have been incorporated, the draft design is ‘frozen’. This development process provides a solid foundation for the basic design.

Keep focusing on what is truly necessary

A project consists of a series of relatively small steps taken in intervals. Technology is just one aspect of innovation besides market development, certification, legislation, operational matters and so on also play a role. All these aspects must be developed simultaneously. It is important to keep focusing on what is truly necessary in order to take the next step: which information do the involved decision-makers, stakeholders and other parties involved need? As funds are generally limited, we are expected to optimise the hours spent on the project and it is also important to reduce investment levels, for instance, by using co-siting or existing production installations if possible. Sometimes, it is possible to construct an installation for making new products that is also suitable for manufacturing existing products. This way, we can combine an expansion of existing capacity whilst creating possibilities for new production.
Would you like to know more about the possibilities for your project? Ruud will be pleased to share ideas about your engineering issues. Contact him by email or call​ 088 943 3700.
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