- Pilot plant
A pilot plant is a small chemical processing system which is operated to generate information about the behavior of the system for use in
designof larger facilities.
Pilot plants are used to reduce the
riskassociated with construction of large process plants. They do this in two ways:
*They are substantially less expensive to build than full-scale plants. The
businessdoes not put as much capitalat 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
datafor 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. Engineering data from other process may be available, but this data can not always be clearly applied to the process of interest. Designers use data from the pilot plant to refine their design of the production scale facility.
If a system is well defined and the engineering
parameters are known, pilot plants are not used. For instance, a business that wants to expand production capacity by building a new plant that does the same thing as an existing plant may choose to not use a pilot plant.
Additionally, advances in process
simulationon computers have increased the confidence of process designers and reduced the need for pilot plants. However, they are still used as even state-of-the-art simulation cannot accurately predict the behavior of complex systems.
Pilot plant is a relative term in the sense that plants are typically smaller than production scale plants, but are built in a range of sizes. Some pilot plants are built in laboratories using stock lab equipment. Others are constructed of fabricated metal on dedicated concrete slabs and cost millions of dollars.
After data is collected from operation of a pilot plant, a larger production scale facility may be built. Alternatively, a demonstration plant, which is bigger than a pilot plant, but smaller than commercial plant, may be built to demonstrate the commercial feasibility of the process. Businesses sometimes continue to operate the pilot plant 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.
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