For the latest Brightlands Young Professionals Session we welcomed Emiel van Kimmenade for a talk on piloting. During his masters and subsequent PhD studies at TU/e Emiel became increasingly interested in understanding and developing catalysts. He worked for TMC and TNO before a short-term contract as a microscopist at DSM brought him to Brightlands Chemelot Campus where he was able to move back to his preferred topic of catalysis at Sabic. He now holds a position as lead scientist for catalysis and reactor engineering where he has gained experience in pilot plant scale up within the petrochemical industry.
During this informative talk he gave an introduction on moving from lab scale to pilot plant with an overview of the more general challenges faced. It was pointed out that pilot trials should be treated as scaled down commercial processes, not scaled up lab procedures – a common misconception. Approaching a pilot trial this way ensures relevant data is collected to remove technology risks ahead of full scale up.
With a pilot plant costing upwards of €500k there can also be pressures, from both business and science, as to whether a pilot trial is worth the investment of money and time. Since it has been shown that pilot trials produce better results overall it is important that senior scientists/engineers help guide their business colleagues to correct decisions. This links directly with the idea that communication is crucial, with highly multidisciplinary teams involved in taking a new process, reaction or material to pilot scale.
Overall it is clear that moving from lab experiments to piloting is challenging and time consuming in more ways than one might first imagine. Combining the right knowledge with careful planning, and a flexibility for trouble shooting is essential if you are to be successful!
The talk was followed by an interactive Q&A session and a networking lunch for all attendees. The CHYPS organising committee thank Emiel for his participation and hope to see many of you at future events.