Engineering Concepts Modular vs Megaplant

Modular vs. Megaplant: The Fight for the Future of Engineering

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Keep it simple: Component manufacturers are already offering package units and process skids in all sizes. Should the market call for higher production volumes, additional units can be added easily, turning scale-up into a simple numbering up process. Engineering giant Fluor demonstrates the viability of this process by assembling a complete open-pit oil-sands processing in Alberta, Canada from 358 preassembled modules.

How modularization boost business results...
How modularization boost business results...
(Source: Lünedonk & Verband WVIS; © ashva73/; Graphic: PROCESS)


The plant with a nameplate capacity of 180,000 barrels per day is already engineered with the module in mind: Fluor’s 3rd-Gen Modular-Excecution process splits the design and engineering phase into several “process blocks” which are delivered to the construction site as premounted skids, saving time and money and moving the demanding steelwork process from the Canadian hinterland to a safe and secure workshop floor.

How Modular Engineering Breathes New Life Into Industry 4.0

Furthermore, modular plant construction is considered to be one of the key enablers of the Industry 4.0 concept: A recent study came to the conclusion that package units and process skids will become one of the driving forces of the chemical industry. Experts assume that end-product manufacturing could become completely decentralised and carried out in container modules at the customer’s site.

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Chemicals from the Container: The F3 Factory

Compact, adjustable, fast and economical: The concept of the construction kit system was hardly every implemented so consistently as in the F3 Factory. The flexible, fast and future factory – F3 in short – is based on the so-called process equipment assemblies, i.e., mechanical single solutions for individual process steps such as mixers and reactors for synthesis or separation units for down-streaming.

All aboard: The F3-Factory project examines a modular production of fine and specialty chemicals, based on standalone container modules.
All aboard: The F3-Factory project examines a modular production of fine and specialty chemicals, based on standalone container modules.
( Source: M.Henig/PROCESS )

These are combined in integrated container modules and placed on a common backbone via plug-and-play. This way the benefits of the flexible but inefficient batch production plant can be connected to the cost benefits of a continuous production plant.

That is exactly the environment which gave birth to the 50 % idea: Reducing the time from concept to finished product by half. This process normally takes years or even decades — far too long for fast-paced special products.

The consistent use of mini-plants is expected to help accelerate this development conspicuously. Of course, the chemical factory site as container fortress is still like music of the future, but projects like the F3 Factory or Evoniks Evotainer define the direction.