Achieving greater production and lower energy consumption - without making modifications to installations or making major investments. That is possible by setting the safety limits at a more realistic level for working with explosive substances. TNO’s Robert Nijhuis explains how this works.
Chemical plants that use explosive substances are subject to strict safety requirements and limits. This affects the capacity of the plants, which may therefore be lower than is actually necessary. “The test protocols that are used for determining what are referred to as the ‘operating windows’ are standardized”, says Robert Nijhuis. “And in general, this entails very wide safety margins. Because we know what is involved in the tests and because we have knowledge of the process conditions, we are in a position to set the safety margins more realistically, but in a way that is responsible and scientifically well-founded.”
More realistic safety margins
The safety margins in the test protocols are so wide primarily because of the amount of energy that is used in the protocols. Nijhuis explains, “For example, the researcher allows a mass to fall onto a compound or he causes a substance to explode in another way. But the amount of energy he uses in these tests is often a thousand to ten thousand times greater than what would be encountered in a the plant itself. A smart approach is to make the tests resemble reality much more closely. This gives a more accurate picture of everyday reality and allows us to better determine and optimize the safety margins, but without compromising safety levels.”
“Without making investments in the hardware, the manufacturer is able to achieve savings in his operational cost”
Lower energy consumption
With a better insight into the safe margins, it is possible to raise production capacity. “If a manufacturer uses a solution of which 30% is made up of a hazardous substance, and our approach shows that this could go up to 33%, that means 10% extra throughput. This automatically has a favourable effect on the amount of energy consumed. After all, you would be processing more product with the same machinery and pumps. We often see a savings effect in the subsequent processing too, especially during the distillation separation stage. So that is a further reduction in energy.”
“Without making investments in the hardware, the manufacturer is able to achieve savings in his operational costs”, summarizes Nijhuis. “There is hardly anything in the plant that needs to be changed. We have developed a standardized service in a number of stages. For each client, we first looked at how the margins were established and what tests we could carry out more accurately. We then performed these tests inside our bunkers. All the results and the successive steps were then discussed with the clients. We have proven this approach in a variety of projects.”