Smart Solutions 5 Perks of Choosing a Modular Plant for Your Project
With industrial firms looking to bring innovative and sustainable solutions to the market, modular plants have picked up steam across diverse sectors. One thing that stands out among all projects that opted for these modular solutions is its multiple advantages.
“The benefits of modular production are well recognized and is widely considered as the future of chemical production,” shared Gabriel Loh, Team Leader at the Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences in Singapore at an online session of a trade fair. With this line of thought, it is not surprising that Loh is adopting a modular approach—in which different emerging concepts and technologies would be combined—for developing the ‘Pilot plant of the Future’, a next generation advanced chemical manufacturing platform in Singapore.
But what exactly are modular production plants? In short, numerous or single technologies and equipment such as process equipment, instrumentation, valves, piping components, and electrical wiring (as per the project requirement) are installed together on skids, and then connected on-site. Developed off-site, these modular plants are then merged with the project.
One may also wonder why are modular plants so popular or rather why is it being considered as a promising solution for production across sectors? The reason is simple: Advantages, advantages and more advantages.
Speed to market: In today’s ever demanding markets and increasing competition around the world, ‘speed to market’ holds great importance and requires quick turnaround time from conception to the end product in the case of changing market requirements or new emerging markets. For this purpose, modular plants are the perfect solution as it provides users with a faster time to market along with an overall reduction of project delivery risk. These plants can be constructed in a relatively short period of time with a shorter commissioning and start-up duration as compared to the more traditional plants developed on-site.
On this point, Elinor Price, Senior Business Development Manager, Life Sciences, Honeywell Process Solutions elaborates, “Recent events have highlighted supply chain breakdowns of obtaining vaccines that require cold storage for populations in the middle of the African continent. The ability to have localized production of medicines and drugs will help drive the development of more and more modular solutions to meet global patient needs.”
Superior quality: Modular plants are designed and developed in an in-door environment which ensures superior quality as compared to on-site plants. For instance, modular equipment and systems mounted on the skids are mostly designed and built at the same location which helps the plant to attain superior quality equipment.
Flexibility: Modular solutions allow flexibility in manufacturing as facilities can produce multi-products in some cases where skid-based equipment and systems can be changed or reconfigured quickly and at a lower cost, opines Price. The solutions can also be transported as a single unit to another location as per the project requirements.
Reduced capex: One of the most significant plus points of these solutions is the reduction in capex which saves both money as well as time. As modular plants can be developed quickly as compared to onsite construction, the materials can also be used efficiently, leading to lower labor and material costs. Also, since these modular skids are pre-assembled, tested, transported and then linked on-site, one requires less laborforce as they are required only to connect the equipment. Thus, reducing labor costs once again.
Safety and security: Modular plants can boast of achieving safety at the off-site location as it’s developed in a safe workshop unlike actual construction sites wherein there are multiple risks involved such as handling hazardous and heavy equipment, carrying out construction tasks at heights, and so on.
Agreeing with Loh, Tom Schafer, Vice President, Koch Modular Process Systems says, “Today, the industry is shifting away from our dependence on the future use of petroleum-based feedstocks and demanding projects which support decarbonization. Scalability and repeatable design characteristics are a must when bringing decarbonization projects to the market.” This is where modular plants come in. “A modular plant delivery model will play an important and strategic role in delivering tomorrows projects.”
Adding to this, Price mentions, “In the Life Sciences sector, the demand is growing for more regional or localized production capacity and we are seeing a shift in product portfolios to biologics. There is a growing demand for modular systems to support quicker scale up of both greenfield and brownfield facilities.”
Live examples from the industry
The world’s first large-scale green gasoline plant has adopted a modular approach. The project is for Arbor Renewable Gas’ Spindletop plant in Texas, USA which aims to convert woody biomass (feedstock) into renewable gasoline. Modular Plant Solutions’ ‘Methanol-To-Go’ modular plant was chosen to convert syngas to methanol via Haldor Topsoe’s methanol synthesis technology for the project. As a final step, a gasoline synthesis technology will also be used to produce renewable biofuel, in line with the quality standards of the region.
Recently, the US-based firm Koch Modular Process Systems designed, manufactured and installed 17 core process modules for Origin Materials’ first manufacturing plant in Canada. The project – Origin 1 will produce PET plastic by utilizing Origin Materials’ novel technology which replaces oil as the principal feedstock with 100 % renewable plant-based feedstock. Schafer shares, “Koch Modular was engaged early in the project development phase to design and construct a demonstration scale system for proof of concept. Upon successful proof of concept, we performed scale up and delivered a full-scale commercial modular plant unit consisting of 15 process modules, 2 stair modules and a large stand-alone vessel.” The modular skids were installed six months ahead of its schedule.
In another project, a modular unit was developed for a spent caustic treatment solution for the world’s largest polyethylene integration project – Baltic Chemical Plant’s Gas Chemical Complex (GCC) project. The engineering firm Mc Dermott was selected for module detailed engineering design and full procurement of the main equipment. Once complete, the modular unit will assist the project to produce up to 3 million tons of polyethylene. The project is situated near Russia's coast in the Gulf of Finland.
With all the above examples, it seems that modular plants will continue to play an active part of the process sector as more industries aim to develop green and innovative solutions for the wellbeing of the planet.