Heat Transfer/Safety How to Keep Heat Transfer Systems Safe and Efficient

Author / Editor: Clive Jonesr / Dominik Stephan

The pharma industry has come a long way since Alexander Fleming famously discovered penicillin. The current global pharmaceuticals market is estimated to be worth $300 billion a year and is growing rapidly. Pharmaceutical manufacturing is not only big business, but also pivotal in keeping the population healthy. Here are the best practices for keeping heat transfer systems running efficiently in pharmaceutical manufacturing.

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Heat transfer fluid maintenance and analysis are essential operations. This avoids serious problems that may occur if such cautious steps are not taken.
Heat transfer fluid maintenance and analysis are essential operations. This avoids serious problems that may occur if such cautious steps are not taken.
(Picture: Global Heat Transfer)

Pharmaceutical processing requires the use of specialized heat transfer fluids designed to work at optimal operating temperature for prolonged periods of time. However, fluids must also be flexible: manufacturing pharmaceuticals requires broad operating temperatures because chemical reactions take place at high temperatures, whereas the crystallisation process takes place at lower temperatures.

Furthermore, thermal fluid used in pharmaceutical processing should be food grade in case of incidental contact with the product. Food grade thermal fluids are highly refined mineral or synthetic oils designed specifically to be used in the processing of products for human consumption—food, beverages and pharmaceuticals. They are non-toxic, non-irritating and have no odour to ensure consumer safety in the event of a leak or spillage. Moreover, they carry a HT-1 certificate issued by governing bodies such as NSF International and the US Food and Drug Association (FDA).

What to Consider in Terms of Maintenance

Heat transfer fluid maintenance and analysis are essential operations that need to be conducted on a regular basis. Unfortunately, some plant managers do not realise there is a problem until it’s too late. A heat transfer fluid’s thermodynamic attributes vary according to operating conditions. At high temperatures, a thermal fluid will experience chemical degradation.

The freezing point of thermal fluid must be lower than ambient conditions. Alternatively, the temperature of the thermal fluid needs to be kept above ambient temperature to stop the heat transfer fluid from freezing. For example, some products freeze at 12°C, which is higher than one might expect.

Regular Monitoring of Heat Transfer Systems

To keep heat transfer systems in tip top shape, regular monitoring needs to be undertaken to establish the condition of the fluid. The best way to get the most out of thermal fluid is to test thoroughly and regularly. Regular representative fluid analysis and top-ups ensure a healthy system, while reducing downtime and decreasing the amount of costly thermal fluid changes.

Problems in heat transfer systems occur when fluids are left for prolonged periods of time without correct supervision and preventative maintenance. Owing to their chemical structure, thermal fluids degrade with age. Thermal cracking and oxidation cause molecules in the oil or fluid to break down, which produces solid carbon. If left, this carbon builds up and clogs pipes, making the entire system inefficient and more expensive to heat.