A researcher at the University of Pittsburgh is helping chemical manufacturers, like Wickliffe-based Lubrizol Corp., modernize their plants.
Goetz Veser, a professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the university's Swanson School of Engineering, is leading a team of university researchers and researchers from Lubrizol in a four-year, $8 million project, according to a news release. The funding comes from Lubrizol and the U.S. Department of Energy's Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment Manufacturing Institute.
While this particular grant project started in 2017, the work between the University of Pittsburgh and Lubrizol got underway about five years ago, according to Cliff Kowall, technical fellow and corporate engineer for process innovation and university collaboration at Lubrizol. The chemical company had wanted to form an ongoing relationship with a nearby university. Today, there's a Lubrizol office embedded at the university, and Kowall teaches there.
The partnership had been handling individual projects, Kowall said, and had been looking at process intensification: finding ways to do things more efficiently in terms of capital spent, waste produced and more.
With the RAPID funding, the group is focusing on how to more efficiently make oil additive succinimide, moving from batch processing to continuous processing, the release stated. Kowall said that if the group can show the change works with its products and processes, it could be deployed more broadly across the country. (In the release, Veser noted that this is more common in Europe).
"Batches are essentially big pots. You put in all the reactants, mix, heat, and pray," Veser said in the release. "They can be as big as 50,000 gallon pots. Controlling this monster of ingredients is difficult. As a result, the efficiency is low, and you can lose a whole batch if something goes wrong."
Kowall said the lab work is taking place at the University of Pittsburgh, but the scale-up work will be done at a pilot plant at Lubrizol's headquarters in Wickliffe (and if it works, it could serve as an option for expansion for the company in the future).
The scale-up work is expected to begin by the middle of 2019.