Process Analysis Technology

Why PAT Must Come Out of the Silo

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Spectroscopy for Measuring Quality and Quantity

Even the exotic areas of spectroscopy are booming. This is confirmed by the use example of the Vienna based Institute for Chemical Technology and Analytics. Jointly with the OMV Refinery in Schwechat, researchers are developing a gas sensor on the basis of a quantum cascade laser, which is already being used in a pilot hydrogenation plant for research purposes.

The technology is interesting because one can measure concentrations not only qualitatively but also quantitatively, which is not so easy at present. This individual case involves measurement of the hydrogen sulphide concentration in the process gas flow of a hydrogenation plant – and that too in the sub-ppm range, as Harald Moser of TU Vienna emphasises. Polymer

Production and Process Management in Yeast Fermentation

The proof that the sensitivity of the sensor correlates sufficiently with the concentration has already been provided. Only a risk analysis remains to be performed.

The next step then is the test in the refinery under Atex conditions. How useful will it be to common users to store analysis jobs performed in the lab earlier directly on the assembly line, is illustrated by two different examples:

The continuous polymer production and the process management in yeast fermentation at a brewery. The PAT instrumentation of continuous processes has not matured in the least, says Peter Mayo, who is engaged at Borealis Olefine in incorporating Time Domain Low Resolution NMR in the process flow.

In the matter of determining the quality parameters of polyolefin powders and pellet flows, the technology in quality assurance and development laboratory is standard. But time is money in polyolefin production.

PAT to be on the Way

A typical polypropylene plant produces 30 to 45 tonnes per hour, estimates Mayo. It is easy to imagine how much money the plastic producers stand to lose if the laboratory result yields an off-spec analysis. Wait times of six hours for one lab test on Xylene dissolution or even 24 hours, till the lab scientist determines the mechanical properties of the blend, should belong to the realm of the past with the adapted TD NMR.

A similar high potential also exists in the optimization of brewing processes, which indicate high capital commitment on account of the long process times. Another example of the colloquium which shows: values that one can raise with PAT are more than sufficiently. The responsible persons must now accelerate the popularization of the advantages.