The transfer of the former Dow/Union Carbide Technology Center to the Higher Education Policy Commission of the State of West Virginia has resulted in many welcome and significant changes in the management of the renamed West Virginia Education, Research and Technology Park property, including greatly increasing MATRIC’s access to pilot and demonstration facilities.
Pilot plant is a relative term in that plants are typically smaller than production scale plants, but are built in a range of sizes from laboratory scale using generic lab equipment to those constructed of fabricated metal on dedicated concrete slabs that may cost millions of dollars.
Since the operation of pilot or demonstration plants represents a vitally important step on the road to commercialization, expanded access to these facilities greatly enables MATRIC to assist its customers in moving the most promising results from laboratory or bench-scale work to be tested and optimized in a much larger integrated process, which closely simulates the conditions that would be experienced in a full commercial plant.
MATRIC understands the technologies behind the processes. So, in addition to speeding scale-up, we also can validate the economics and commercialization potential of emerging technologies. Conducting pilot scale demonstrations can provide a high degree of confidence in the ultimate performance of newly developed processes, and greatly reduces the technical and commercial risk of proceeding to full commercial scale. Pilot plants reduce the risk associated with construction of large process plants in three ways:
- They are substantially less expensive to build than full-scale plants. The business does not put as much capital at risk on a project that may be inefficient or unfeasible. Further, design changes can be made more cheaply at the pilot scale and kinks in the process can be worked out before the large plant is constructed.
- They provide valuable data for design of the full-scale plant. Scientific data about reactions, material properties, corrosiveness, for instance, may be available, but it is difficult to predict the behavior of a process of any complexity. Designers use data from the pilot plant to refine their design of the production scale facility.
- They provide ongoing support in order to test ideas for new products, new feedstocks, or different operating conditions. Alternatively, they may be operated as production facilities, augmenting production from the main plant.
One of the essential elements of a good pilot plant trial is flexibility. The ability to modify column internals and/or auxiliary equipment is often necessary to quickly arrive at an optimum solution. MATRIC’s engineers have the experience and expertise to solve the most difficult production problems. Experienced operators will perform tests over a range of “real world” operating conditions to ensure that the unit is operating as expected, while optimizing the process.
MATRIC’s service offerings are unique in that they encompass the breadth of commercialization including laboratory research and development, world-class technology assessment, pilot plant design, operation and analysis, process design, safety assessments, preliminary and full-scale engineering design and cost estimation, materials procurement and construction management. Combining these activities seamlessly into one continuous process reduces costs, eliminates “transfer of knowledge” errors and accelerates project completion.