Building Bridges to the Future

Pharma Engineering

The Indian subsidiary of Bayer Technology Services just keeps on growing. It not only supports the other Bayer companies in India, but also external customers. For example, Ferring Pharmaceuticals from Switzerland.

Modern India (Mumbai), modern environmental standards. Bayer Technology Services has developed a special waste-water solution for the new Ferring plant.

With this letter I would like to express my appreciation to Bayer Technology Services for their incredible support.” It is not every day you receive a business letter that opens with such warm words, which is why Balaram Khot was especially happy when he received this one. Khot, Head of Bayer Technology Services India, was lucky enough to receive two letters of this kind in 2013. Both were sent by Jouke Tuinhof, and in both letters the Director of Global Engineering at Ferring Pharmaceuticals conveyed his delight over the current progress of the investment project in India. “Milestones [...] that wouldn‘t have been possible without the support and perseverance of the members from the Bayer Technology Services project team,” Tuinhof wrote each time.

The Ferring manager was referring to the construction of a production plant for an active pharmaceutical ingredient. At the end of 2010, Ferring, a Swiss company, decided to meet the growing global demand with the construction of a further plant. The location chosen was Ambernath in India, a town just northeast of Mumbai. This stood to reason as Ferring already had research and development labs as well as marketing and sales offices there. However, some issues still needed to be clarified; for example, the tropical conditions and the regulations set out by the Indian authorities had to be taken into account.

To resolve these issues, Ferring sought an engineering partner. One who knew a lot about production plants for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, and one that was familiar with the specific conditions in Asia, in particular India. This was when Jouke Tuinhof thought of Bayer Technology Services, the company he knew from his time in Singapore. He was sure he would find the expertise he was looking for there. The fact that the Bayer company had its own subsidiary in India and its main office less than an hour’s drive from Ambernath was ideal. Tuinhof made contact.

Balaram Khot enjoys receiving requests like these. Although he is repeatedly faced with the challenge of how to supply all the required resources, this is an enviable problem. While many managers all over the world are streamlining their organizations and having to reduce staff costs, Khot is on the constant lookout for more engineers to expand his team. It is less than seven years ago that the Indian subsidiary of Bayer Technology Services was set up as a three-man team. Since then the workforce has increased more than tenfold, and by the end of the year may have grown to over 40.

The Ferring project has been contributing significantly to this expansion for some time now. “We were able to convince Ferring that we have the necessary experience,” explains Balaram Khot. To this end, the Head of Bayer Technology Services India told his future client about the engineering projects that his staff had already undertaken, for example, for Bayer MaterialScience and Bayer CropScience. This is why Ferring chose Khot’s team as an engineering partner. The contract included the entire investment project: from the development of a suitable concept to the start-up of the completed plant. Ferring granted Bayer Technology Services authorization in many areas, which meant that Bayer Technology Services was appointed “Owner’s Engineer” from the very start.

The very first question was that of feasibility. Fortunately for the team at Bayer Technology Services they did not have to start their calculations from scratch. “Ferring already produces the same active substance on a Danish site. This meant we could include a lot of their information and data,” says Pravin Solanki, who is the Project Manager at Bayer Technology Services.

However, it was not possible to simply build a copy of the Danish plant. After all, there have been several developments since its commission over 20 years ago. “And, of course, due to the tropical climate we have to partly use very different materials,” Solanki adds. 

This is what Ferring’s new production plant will look like, just a little less colorful. This 3D model was created long before the first ground was broken.
This is what Ferring’s new production plant will look like, just a little less colorful. This 3D model was created long before the first ground was broken.

In terms of the materials used, it goes without saying that as Owner’s Engineer, Bayer Technology Services is not only responsible for developing a fully functional plant. “We also want it to remain operational for a long period of time,” explains Solanki.

This was why the conditions that have to be endured by every process and utility system used in the Ferring project were evaluated, as well as which materials would ensure durability. “This means that we may give preference to glass-lined equipment rather than high-density polyethylene vessels in particular cases,” says Solanki. While this may initially prove more expensive, it pays off over the course of the expected service life. Explaining the general procedure, Solanki says, “All measures of this kind were discussed with Ferring and approved on an individual basis.” 

Before the construction phase could begin, the important issue of wastewater treatment had to be addressed. For example, both the two-stage synthesis of the active substance as well as the subsequent purification of the finished ingredient produce wastewater. In addition to an organic substance, it is essentially a question of dissolved salts that have to be separated so as to meet the requirements of the Indian authorities for the wastewater discharge limits.

“That wouldn’t havebeen possible without the great supportof Bayer Technology Services.”

Jouke Tuinhof

Director of Global Engineering, Ferring Pharmaceuticals

Because the Danish plant is part of a large chemical park with its own high-performance wastewater treatment facility, Pravin Solanki’s team was unable to use the system as a model. In Denmark, Ferring can simply add its own wastewater to that of the partners in the chemical park, whereas in Ambernath, Solanki and his colleagues had to develop a standalone solution.

This is where the integration within the global organization of Bayer Technology Services has also paid off. At the company’s headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, there is a separate Filtration & Membrane Technology department (FMT) with extensive experience and expertise in water treatment. Ferring sent sewage samples from its Danish production site to Leverkusen, where a three-stage purification scheme was developed by the FMT team in their laboratories. This includes a biological treatment for the removal of organic matter as well as an evaporation plant that precipitates the salts so that they can be disposed of separately. In order to minimize the energy consumption needed for this evaporation process, Leverkusen precedes this with reverse osmosis, thus concentrating the salts in advance.

“The authorities were very pleased with this solution,” Solanki recalls. The client was equally happy because the investment project would not have proceeded without a suitable water treatment system. So now the actual construction phase could begin.

Meanwhile, work is progressing fast at the site. And if everything continues to go according to plan, the team will have the entire plant completed later this year. By then, 1,300 tons of reinforcement steel, 300 tons of structural steel, nearly ten kilometers of pipelines and tubing, 65 kilometers of cable, over 1,500 valves and much more besides will have been installed. But the plant still needs to be approved by the India FDA before Ferring can start commercial production, which is planned for 2016. And who knows, maybe Balaram Khot will have received another congratulatory letter in the meantime from Jouke Tuinhof.

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