SYSTAG adds intelligence to hydrogenation lab reactors
Products & Services | SYSTAG, System Technik AG
This case study involving a Swiss pharmaceutical manufacturer shows how SYSTAG FlexyConcept solutions can significantly enhance the reactor capabilities within a hydrogenation laboratory.
By enabling process automation, FlexyConcept upgrades involving flexible and programmable recipe, control and logging systems, have enabled the complex, prolonged experimentation and testing needed to determine optimal and safe parameters for new production processes, while using existing reactors.
Constant pressures to develop new or changed production processes are the inevitable consequences of evolving products, markets, feedstocks, equipment and regulations. Accordingly, pharmaceutical company laboratories need to validate and optimize new processes and recipes and provide the parent production plant with reliable and thoroughly proven parameters for safe operation to produce a high quality product.
A Swiss pharma manufacturer was confronted with demands that could not economically be met with the four existing – otherwise perfectly satisfactory – hydrogenation SS316 100bar reactors in its lab facility. The testing of new processes required more prolonged round-the-clock operation of the 500ml and two liter reactors, with constant adjustment of gas dosing, stirring and heat input based on continuous measurements while staying within safe operational parameters.
With round the clock supervision and manual logging being prohibitively expensive, the parent company was considering replacing its reactors with fully automated ones featuring comprehensive data logging.
However, before taking that step, the Chemist Group Leader Hydrogenation asked System Technik AG (SYSTAG) whether there was an equivalent, but less expensive solution that did not entail scrapping the existing reactors.
SYSTAG proposed ‘adding intelligence’ to the existing reactor set up by connecting them to a FlexyPAT (process automation technology) control system, a component of SYSTAG’s FlexyConcept lab automation platform.
On the hardware side, this involved installation of the FlexyPAT controllers and retrofitting the reactors with suitable sensors and gauges.
However, for the needs of this client, some tailored software was also required, as SYSTAG Project Leader Erwin Telser explained:
“We needed to develop some custom software algorithms, and the customer also wanted two different measurement techniques for hydrogen consumption, based on pressure differential and the thermal mass flow method. Moreover, they also requested placing a backup controller on permanent standby in the same cabinet as the four active control units, for rapid changeover in case of failure. Despite limited space, we managed to solve this.”
There were also downtime constraints for performing the upgrade, as the reactors are in almost constant use.
“Thanks to good preparation and planning by our team, we were able to install, test and commission the upgrade within just two weeks,” said Mr. Telser.
Results and benefits
The laboratory’s existing hydrogenation reactors and control devices (pumps, valves, agitators, etc.) are now directly controlled by a user-friendly interface run on a single PC workstation with configurable recipe software. Equipment state and process parameters are visualized graphically. All process parameters and measurements are continuously logged by the FlexyPAT e-Lab journal.
For improved reaction tracking, the contamination-free sampling system enables automated sampling under pressure of up to four samples per reactor.
Further benefits of the upgrade are that operations can be safeguarded from critical situations around the clock with emergency cooling and/or shutdown automatically activated if necessary and designated personnel alerted by e-mail.
A year and a half after the upgrade, the hydrogenation lab continues to meet and even exceed the expectations of the Hydrogenation lab’s Group Leader. The laboratory now has significantly enhanced safety, flexibility and productivity while automated e-Lab documentation provides extensive data for improved and easier analysis and process design.
As a result of the proven success of the FlexyPAT hydrogenation reactor upgrades, this customer is now exploring more opportunities for the use of automated Lab Reactors from SYSTAG in the company’s other development laboratories.
Mike Mandlehr, Marketing Director, SYSTAG
Tel: +41 44 704 54 42