The concept was originally pioneered in the 1970s by Colin Ramshaw and his co-workers at ICI, where PI was defined as a 'reduction in plant size by at least a factor 100'. PI is about providing a chemical process with the precise environment required which results in better products, and processes which are safer, cleaner, smaller - and cheaper.
PI (as practised at BHR Group) is a business driven approach - the focus is always on what business benefits are targeted and might be achieved.
Features of PI Solutions
Established PI Benefits
In simple words process intensification is the development of novel equipments and techniques, as compared to the present state-of-art, to bring dramatic improvements in manufacturing and processing, substantially decreasing equipment size/production-capacity ratio, energy consumption, or waste production.
Perhaps a simpler definition could be; any chemical engineering development that leads to a substantially smaller, cleaner, and more energy-efficient technology is process intensification but the development of new catalysts is not part of PI.
Image from University of Twente
It should be noted that many of the equipments are of type never known before but there are quite few equipments which have been available to the chemical engineer but their potential was never fully exploited. Examples are compact heat exchangers, static mixers, etc.
Examples of new developments are the HIGEE column, spinning disc reactor, oscillating flow reactor, loop reactors, spinning tube in tube reactor, Heat exchange reactor, supersonic gas liquid reactor, static mixing catalysts, microchannel reactors, microchannel heat exchangers, etc.
Process intensification involves the development of new compact devices and techniques that will lead to substantial improvements in the production processes, reductions in the size of production equipment, lower investment costs, lower energy use and waste production, and finally to more sustainable technologies.
So in short, Process Intensification is basically increasing the output by reducing equipment size & the associated benefits are the reduced energy consumption, lesser impurity formation, more selectivity & hence more yield, lesser waste, reduced hazards due to handling smaller volumes etc.
In my next post I will try to cover few equipments one by one in more detail.