Tuesday, 14 May 2013

F3: the Future for Process is Fast and Flexible!

Today (May 14) the SusChem-inspired F3 Factory project presented some of the results from this FP7 funded collaborative research on fast, flexible, modular production technology for the future chemical industry and beyond. The presentations made in Brussels show that the project can provide a tangible platform for future manufacturing-led growth in Europe.

Launched in 2009 the €30 million F3 Factory project is a major public-private sector initiative that sought to define and demonstrate a new paradigm in modular sustainable chemical production technology. The results of the project could have a major impact on the competitiveness of the European process industries.

The project’s overarching objective was to strengthen the European chemical industry’s global technology leadership through implementation of faster, more flexible production methods. Crossing country and company borders, interdisciplinary teams from 26 partner organisations in nine EU member states have collaborated successfully to:
  • deliver radically new ‘plug and play’ modular chemical production technology, capable of widespread implementation throughout the chemical industry and beyond
  • deliver holistic process design methodologies, applying process intensification concepts and innovative decision tools
Case studies
Based on seven industrial case studies spanning a broad range of process industry sectors including pharmaceuticals, chemical intermediates, specialty polymers and consumer products, the project has successfully proved the fast, flexible production concept through:
  • demonstration of the F3 Factory modular concept at industrial scale for commercial applications 
  • realisation of an open access backbone plant for modular continuous production 
  • validation of new intensified and simplified continuous processes 
  • design and validation of new/enhanced reactor technologies 
  • establishment of design guidelines and standards for modular, container based production units.
Positive for profit and planet
Details of the results from the seven individual case studies will be disseminated widely during the summer when data collection is fully completed for all. However, SusChem stakeholders were given an early overview of the overall potential of the project estimated in terms of business and environmental impacts.

For business the project has demonstrated increased investment flexibility, potential capital expenditure reduction up to 40%, potential operating expenditure reduction up to 20% and enabling a much faster 'time to market' for new products - a major competitive advantage.

From an environmental and resource efficiency point of view the project has demonstrated reduced energy consumption up to 30%, solvent reduction up to 100%, footprint reduction up to 50% and the potential to reduce or eliminate transportation by enabling local or point of use production.

In addition the project has successfully validated new intensified and simplified continuous processes that have demonstrated process intensification up to a factor of 500, increased space-time-yield up to a factor >100, increased capacity >20%, increased production yield >20%, reduced equipment need >60%, reduction of reaction/processing time by a factor of 10 and through these simplified processes achieved reduced reaction and processing steps up to 30%.

Successful design and validation of new or enhanced reactor technologies has been achieved and the F3 Factory has established design guidelines and standards for modular, container based production units that have been defined and implemented in different process equipment containers.

The project has realised an innovative open access backbone plant (INVITE) facility for modular continuous production – a resource for European process development that will have continuing value for many years to come.

There is already tangible evidence of exploitation of the project’s results in terms of new, improved scientific knowledge, new decision methodologies, improved production processes and technologies, new standards and design guidelines with more than 15 patents submitted or in progress.

Wide dissemination of F3 Factory learning has seen more than 150 conference presentations, papers or posters already given, more than 30 peer reviewed technical papers submitted or in preparation and open engagement with EU academia and industry through regular Interest Group meetings.

SusChem vision
The event heralded the opening of the SusChem annual stakeholder event 2013. SusChem is pleased to have hosted the official F3 Factory closing session as the project was one of SusChem’s original three visionary projects on future concepts for a sustainable chemical industry.

SusChem Chairman Dr Klaus Sommer said: "It was a privilege and an honour to be involved with this project that has not only produced excellent new scientific knowledge, but also shown how to bridge the innovation gap and with a consortium including many major companies working very effectively together."

Seven major European Chemical Companies (Arkema, Astra Zeneca, BASF, Bayer, Evonik, Procter & Gamble and Rhodia-Solvay) worked collaboratively in the project demonstrating that large scale, pre-competitive collaborative research is both manageable and potentially highly fruitful.

It is hoped that the fruits of the ground-breaking F3 Factory project will feed into future major SusChem programmes such as the SPIRE and BRIDGE 2020 public-private initiatives during Horizon 2020.

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