Analyzer Technology to Go

Process Analysis Technology

Every chemical production process requires that the combinations of substances and their properties need to be controlled. Bayer Technology Services turns analyzer technology into an individually tailored, comprehensive solution – and delivers it turnkey to customers worldwide.

Just don’t let it drop! This thought crosses one’s mind each time one of these PAT containers is loaded at the Leverkusen Chempark. After all, these “metal crates” are packed full of measuring technology – tailored for use in a certain chemicals plant somewhere on this planet.

Inch by inch, the silver-gray container is hoisted into Leverkusen’s wintry sky. The thought crosses one’s mind: “Just don’t let it drop.” The anxious faces of other colleagues can be seen at a window in the neighboring building following the progress of the operation, obviously thinking the same thing. They are all members of the Bayer team who created the extremely valuable contents inching skyward inside this non-descript box. Everything runs smoothly. The crane sets the 14 meter-long container safe and sound on the semi-trailer truck and the journey can begin. There is an audible sigh of relief.

That was December 2013. In the meantime, the container has arrived in Changzhou Yangtze Riverside Industrial Park, to the northwest of Shanghai. Lanxess, a chemical company, is currently constructing a facility there for the production of EPDM rubber. This will also need reliable process analyzer technology (PAT), to monitor the process using specific substance reference values and controlled so that it delivers a product conforming to specifications. It is this PAT that Bayer Technology Services was shipping in the gray container. 

“Many work in measuring technology, but it’s rare they also understand the related chemical systems.”

Frank Grümbel

Head of Process Analyzer Technology, Aliseca

For decades it had been standard to install the necessary PAT directly in the plant. But around 20 years ago, Bayer built a plant in Belford Roxo, Brazil, that required complex analyzer technology. “At the time, we had no PAT experts in Brazil,” recalls Dr. Thomas Sauter, who is in charge of PAT Engineering at Bayer Technology Services. “So the idea occurred to us to build all of the analyzer technology in Germany, check its functions, and then ship it to Brazil.” Analyzer technology to go, so to speak. Naturally, this had to be in a form that was not only easy to transport but also userfriendly on site and simple to integrate into the production system. This was the inception of the container concept at Bayer. However, it was not enough to simply install all of the measuring technology: the PAT container also had to interface with the plant’s own systems. No matter whether electricity, water, gas, or even optical signals – the workers in the plant had to be able to simply hook it up. After a short period of introductory training, the Brazilian operation was up and running. Plug and play is what we would call it today.

Since then, this approach has proven itself around the world dozens of times. The PAT team at Bayer Technology Services in Leverkusen supplied the 80th container earlier this year, while the Lanxess container shipped off in December was one of seven built by Bayer Technology Services in 2013 alone. 

These PAT projects have the typical characteristics of an engineering project – conceptual design, basic engineering, and detail engineering. The experience gained in over four decades at Bayer Technology Services is put to good use from the very start. During the conceptual design phase, the experts have a repertoire of over 60 different measuring techniques to choose from – from a pH meter to complete gas chromatography. Once the implementation planning is finalized, the Center for System Integration and Prototyping, headed by Karl-Heinz Niehsen, comes into play. This is where the concept on paper drawn up previously by the PAT engineering team becomes reality. 

“My team really can ‘read’ these plans,” explains Niehsen, and one can sense the electrical engineer’s admiration. Because “read” means that his experts, looking at lines and symbols, not only identify which measurement system or which connections for feeding in the substances and samples are needed, but “They can immediately visualize it spatially, as well,” he adds. This should be the most compact space possible, since, while the largest PAT solution to date took up 19 containers, the aim is to store all of the measurement technology inside as few containers as possible. 

In some cases, this results in the walls of a container being so crammed full of wires and tubing that the technicians have to reach deep inside their bag of tricks. “Here, look at this,” exclaims Niehsen, pointing to a mass of tightly packed, stainless steel tubes in another container. Many of them curve around to avoid contact with neighboring lines. “You can’t even buy tubing with such bends. So we manufacture them individually in the workshop,” says Niehsen. With pride, he adds that customers are continually praising both the technical and optical quality of their design. “It’s not something everybody can do.” 

The Center for System Integration and Prototyping has its own assembly space and workshop in the Leverkusen building with close to 1,000 m² of space available to preassemble all the components and install them in the containers so as to meet the customers’ individual needs. This is where those parts are produced that cannot be found anywhere else on the market. As a result of the team’s decades of experience, they now not only produce PAT modules but also, for example, modular production equipment for F3 factory containers (see also technology solutions 2012, p. 24 f.). 

This vast reservoir of experience is equally appreciated at Aliseca. The Lanxess subsidiary is, among other things, responsible for Lanxess’s global initiatives, and, therefore, for ordering the container for the plant in Changzhou. “Many companies are able to work in measuring technology,” points out Frank Grümbel, head of PAT at Aliseca, “but also understanding how to adapt this to the complex demands of our chemical plants, now that is rare. Bayer Technology Services has this expertise because they have a high degree of owner’s experience themselves. The perfect partner.”

In the meantime, the PAT team in Leverkusen has long since been busy on their next projects. Even if many containers appear similar on the outside, inside everything is oneof-a-kind measuring technology, tailor-made for each individual plant. And every time another container is loaded by crane, some team members are sure to be seen standing at the window thinking, “Just don’t let it drop.”

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