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January 1, 2011
Although plant safety should be a top priority every day, there are certain times when extra vigilance is needed to make sure that safety practices are being maintained. This article outlines three periods deemed to be “critical” for plant safety and specific items to pay attention to in these periods.     Three critical periods The following three phases in a production plant’s...
January 1, 2011
History is a constant reminder that accidents and catastrophic events can and do occur in process environments. As processes become more complex (for instance, allowing for greater operating temperatures and pressures to be used) and existing basic process control systems (BPCS) and safety systems age, risk reduction becomes more challenging. Regulations from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Admin...
January 1, 2011
The reboiler generally supplies most of the energy required to effect component separation. If too much heat is supplied, the tower may flood; conversely, if too little heat is available, separation performance may decrease via poor reflux ratio (pinching), excessive weeping or poor tray action. Proper design of reboiling systems involves coordinating aspects both outside and inside the tower. This article...
January 1, 2011
Plant Watch Dow to increase ethane cracking capabilities December 3, 2010 — The Dow Chemical Co. (Midland, Mich.; plans to increase ethane cracking capabilities on the U.S. Gulf Coast and improve its ethane cracking capabilities by 20–30% over the next two to three years. In addition, Dow announced it is reviewing joint venture (JV) options for building a natural gas liquids (NGL)...
January 1, 2011
Agglomeration is the process of converting fine powder particles into larger particles by the introduction of external forces. Agglomeration is often desirable because the process yields a product that has a higher bulk density, contains less dust, and has improved flowability. Figure 1 shows samples of fine potash powder and powder that has been agglomerated.  Figure 1. Fine potash powder is one...
January 1, 2011
With productivity, growth and reliability as constant drivers, the proactive evaluation of all machinery is critically important. In order to gain useful insight, the maintenance team must capture comprehensive data related to machinery operation and carry out a logical interpretation of the data. The conventional language of equipment components — vibration — transmits relevant information...
December 2, 2010
Catalyst recycling A new process for selectively dissolving either palladium or gold from mixed-metal catalyst systems could offer a way to improve recycling of those materials. In traditional noble-metal recycling with aqua regia (mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acids), metals are often dissolved together, which introduces impurities into the recycled metals. Now scientists at the Georgia Institute of...
December 1, 2010
Next spring, Exelus, Inc. (Livingston, N.J.; plans to pilot a new process that converts crude bioethanol (beer) into Bio-Alkylate — a fuel that is chemically identical to gasoline. New Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA; Washington, D.C.) call for increasing the amount of ethanol that can be added to gasoline to 15 vol.% (so-called E15...
December 1, 2010
At last month’s Sulfur 2010 Conference (November 1–4; Prague, Czech Republic), Haldor Topsøe A/S (Lyngby, Denmark; introduced its latest sulfuric-acid catalyst, VK-701 Leap5, which promises to help operators of sulfuric acid plants meet more-stringent SO2-emission limits. When used in the final pass of single absorption H2SO4 plants, VK-701 Leap5 reduces SO2 emissions by...
December 1, 2010
A demonstration plant for a biological process that produces ethanol and 2,3 butanediol (2,3-BD) from the offgases of industrial plants will be started up in the third quarter of 2011 at a steel mill operated by Bao Steel (Shanghai). Developed by LanzaTech (Auckland, New Zealand;, the process will produce about 100,000 gal/yr of ethanol from a slipstream of stack gases, says Mike...
December 1, 2010
A nanotechnology-based, bottom-up approach to synthesizing catalysts for converting natural gas to ethylene could enable an alternative to the steam-cracking of crude oil, an energy-intensive process conventionally used to produce ethylene, the world’s most valuable commodity chemical. Scientists at the startup Siluria Technologies Inc. (San Francisco, Calif.; have developed a...
December 1, 2010
A green hydrometallurgical process for recovering gold from ore, developed by Haber, Inc. (Arlington, Mass.;, may make its commercial debut in Suriname. Albert Conti, Haber’s CEO, says the Republic of Suriname has made a commitment to develop a strategic partnership with the company for the use of the process. The elimination of mercury pollution is a goal of the government in...
December 1, 2010
Professor Shu Kobayashi, University of Tokyo (Tokyo, Japan;, has discovered that bimetallic nanoclusters can catalyze the oxidation of alcohols. Kobayashi’s group has demonstrated the ability to control the reaction pathways of alcohol oxidation to aldehydes, carboxylic acids or esters using nanoclusters composed of a few to...
December 1, 2010
A miniaturized electron spin resonance (ESR) spectrometer developed by Active Spectrum Inc. (Foster City, Calif.; can facilitate studies of chemical species with unpaired electrons, such as organic free radicals and transition metal complexes. Available in both online and benchtop models, the Micro-ESR spectrometer greatly reduces the size, cost and complexity of ESR measurements...
December 1, 2010
A team of engineers from the Center for Energy Technology, University of Adelaide (South Australia;, the University of Nantes (France) and Mie University (Japan), have proposed a more efficient way to generate power from low to medium temperature (90–260°C) solar and geothermal resources. In the new system, called Renewable Assisted Power Generation (RAPG), the renewable...
December 1, 2010
Researchers from the Department of Environmental and Applied Chemical Engineering, Gangneung-Wonju National University (Gangneung, South Korea; are developing a two-step enzymatic route to biodiesel fuel that promises to reduce production costs. The process employs a lipase-producing bacterium and, sequentially, a commercial enzyme. The...
December 1, 2010
Most of the more than $100 billion in capital spending and $1.2 trillion in prodution costs spent annually by the chemical process industries (CPI) is committed by decisions made in the early phases of process development and plant design. A more disciplined approach to decision-making that fosters early attention to costs and more thorough consideration of available options has the potential to lower...
December 1, 2010
To solve the task of solid-liquid (S-L) separation in the chemical process industries (CPI) a wide variety of methods are invariably used. Many of these methods are not mutually exclusive and include a selection of technologies that can be expediently combined to provide an efficient operating system. A good understanding of the options available and details of the individual system modules can enhance the...
December 1, 2010
Engineers and others working in the chemical process industries (CPI) generally are experiencing an employment situation that is significantly improved over 12 to 18 months ago, with a tentative optimism among CPI companies driving significant hiring activity. Demand for chemical engineering skills remains strong, reflecting the fact that the chemical sciences represent key enablers in solving many broad...
December 1, 2010
Management of process plants requires the understanding and application of the fundamental tenets of safe design, construction, and operation of each facility. In that context, many years of practical experience with systems that use very high-temperature organic heat-transfer media has led to much knowledge regarding design features to adopt and those that should not be repeated.  For the media...
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