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Process Intensification

By December 12, 2017December 26th, 2021Briefs

What is it?

Process intensification involves combining multiple processing steps into one, or combining the work of multiple pieces of equipment in one machine. It is most often discussed within the context of the chemical industry where fluid mixing, heating, and cooling processes are common.

How does it work?

Chemical processes rely on mixing, heat transfer, and molecular interactions. Changes to production equipment design to improve how quickly two fluids mix, or to combine mixing and heating processes into one step, are examples of process intensification in action. Changes in controls and process design also fall into this category. These changes improve production and eliminate equipment, which lowers the energy use per unit production of the process, creating energy savings.

What are the most appropriate applications?

Chemical plants, especially ethanol, ethylene, ammonia, benzene, and chlorine producers, are well suited for this technology. Any process involving multiple fluids, mixing, and heat transfer is appropriate. Combining the “reaction” and “separation” operations in petrochemical refining is a common example of process intensification.

What are the savings?

Because this technology encompasses a range of solutions, the savings estimates are only available from the Department of Energy (DOE) industry-wide studies. In a 2015 report[1], the DOE estimated petrochemical and bulk chemical production operations could reduce energy use by 20% by implementing process intensification principles.

What are the non-energy benefits?

Process intensification results in a reduction in equipment, environmental impact (reduced on-site emissions and reduced waste), maintenance, and capital cost.

What is the cost?

Costs for this technology are highly variable at this stage in development and are difficult to estimate. Each individual process will require a unique solution and associated cost.

What is the status/availability of the technology?

This is part of on-going industry research and is primarily in research and development phase, with some limited commercially-available technology.

What kinds of incentives/programs are available?

This technology would be evaluated under Custom Rebate programs. Incentives will vary depending on customer specifics.

[1] Quadrennial Technology Review: An Assessment of Energy Technologies and Research Opportunities. United States Department of Energy. Pg 191-192. September 2015.

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