Environmental Engineering Solvent Recycling Crucial to Curb CO2 Emissions in Pharma Industry

Author / Editor: Parag Patwardhan / Dominik Stephan

According to a new study, reusing solvents instead of incinerating them would be a more practical approach for pharmaceutical manufacturers. Researchers have found that recycling reduces the amount of carbon emissions and consumes less energy than what would be required to make those chemicals from scratch. Maximum solvent recovery, being the need of the hour to promote solvent reuse, spiral heat exchangers can play a crucial role in achieving this goal.

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Solvent recycling can help ensure a clean environment by reducing carbon emissions in the pharmaceutical sector
Solvent recycling can help ensure a clean environment by reducing carbon emissions in the pharmaceutical sector
(Picture: PROCESS India / depositphotos.com)

By far, solvents are the biggest contributors to pharmaceutical-related emissions. In this backdrop, reuse of solvents can prove highly beneficial when it comes to curbing carbon emissions. Moreover, according to a research, the amount of energy needed to produce fresh solvent and burn waste is much higher than what is required to undertake reduction and recycling programs. This points to the fact that by adopting the method of solvent reuse, manufacturers can reduce waste – particularly carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

However, the benefits are evident only when the entire lifecycle of the solvent is evaluated. If the solvent is only considered within the boundaries of the pharmaceutical factory, the total emissions are underestimated. The study clearly shows the importance of taking into account the entire lifecycle of solvent production, use and disposal.

Solvent Recovery

One of the most crucial factors in terms of solvent recycling is the amount of recovery. Towards this end, efficient heat exchangers can play a vital role. In this context, the highly efficient Alfa Laval heat exchangers deserve a mention as they enable almost complete recovery (99 per cent solvent across any process in the active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) segment).

Complete recovery indicates maximum recovery with the help of utility cooling tower water, which reduces the load on secondary condenser and, in turn, brings down the load on utility chilled water or brine water, thereby saving considerable amount of money on power consumption.

Spiral Heat Exchangers

Alfa Laval is a pioneer in the manufacture of energy-efficient and compact heat exchangers; its manufacturing plant is located in Satara, 100 km away from Pune, Maharashtra.

The spiral heat exchanger manufactured by the company is ideal for conventional applications, for instance, solvent recovery across reactors, columns, etc. The distinct design features (low pressure drop across process side adds benefits to vacuum duties; turbulent utility flow; mono channel utility arrangement; improved heat transfer coefficient) of this heat exchanger make it very compact as compared to traditional shell and tube design. It occupies only 30 per cent of the space as opposed to shell and tube heat exchanger.