Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Process Wednesday: Spongeballs

I have to thank "processchemist" at In the Pipeline's Amazonapalooza, for recommending "The Pilot Plant Real Book" by Francs McConville, which is a wonderful, wonderful read for a new chemist in the chemical process industry. It's chock full of useful tidbits and very detailed and clear graphics about how best to, for example, transfer a liquid into a reaction under an inert atmosphere. If you want to have an understanding of what a plant engineer is thinking about when they're thinking about the equipment you're using, this is a great place to start reading.

There are also amusing little tidbits of wisdom, for example, this one about cleaning your reactions using... spongeballs:
The use of sponge balls or scrubbing agents is also fairly common. They can provide a better cleaning actions than spray or mixing alone. However, it is important to ensure that the sponge balls will not disintegrate under your cleaning conditions. It's also a good idea to count the balls before putting them in to ensure that they all come out. 
It is unknown whether or not "residual spongeball" is a specification in reactor cleaning protocols. 

9 comments:

  1. Spongeballs? That's a new one to me. Anyone here ever used them before?

    Our operators have been know to use "the stick" - a wipe on a flat mop fastened to a long pole. Comes in handy if for whatever reason you just can't get a pesky residue on the reactor wall to dissolve using a sprayball.

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  2. Mostly used in heating/cooling water in areas where stuff has to be clean but not super-ultra-shiny clean. They aren't used much in pharma, more like in NPCW tempered water systems, wastewater, crude petroleum piping.

    In food processing they use "pigs": rubber plugs the diameter of the piping are shot through the piping under pressure to squeeze the piping clean like a squeegee. And yes, you have to count them as they come out.

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    1. They use pigs in the natural gas industry, too, right? I seem to recall a CSB video about that...

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  3. I keep on reading the title as SpongeBobs. Shows where my head's at today.

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  4. Stewie Griffin:
    So how would this book compare to Neal Anderson's book in terms of usefulness for chemistry performed in water? I work with making a wide variety of salts, and we do our reactions explicitly in water. So lots of the info in Anderson's book, like the choice of solvent, weren't directly useful for me (though the approach to scale-up, in-process controls, morphology, and problem solving were useful chapters).

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    1. Not sure. A lot of it is plant equipment related. What might make it worth the ~$120 for book,S&H is the section on material compatibility, especially along the lines of corrosion/temperature.

      I've used it to educate myself on operation of plant equipment and as a reference for data (including a lovely aqueous solubility chart, which you probably have already.)

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    2. Stewie Griffin:
      FYI you can download for free from google Seidell's Solubilities of Inorganic and Organic Compounds (http://books.google.com/books/about/Solubilities_of_Inorganic_and_Organic_Co.html?id=d1JMAAAAMAAJ). It's from 1919 so a bit old, but for normal/common salts it's pretty handy to have around.

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  5. They do indeed use pigs in the oil+gas industry. Most of the time they're used to clean wax/asphaltene deposits (hydrocarbon solids) from the inner surface of pipelines to reduce line pressure and improve production, but they can also displace bacterial colonies and inorganic scale buildups. There's an ungodly number of options where type of pig is concerned. Analysing the returns that come out in the pig trap can help indicate what chemical treatment the producer might wish to use to reduce pigging frequency and/or boost production.

    As an interesting aside, pigs are also sometimes used to apply corrosion inhibitors that are meant to film the inner surface of pipelines: a leading pig clears the surface ahead of a "pill" of product (product is a liquid), and a trailing pig has a diameter slightly smaller than the ID of the pipeline, which in theory leaves a thin film of product behind the pig train.

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  6. and by spongeballs do you mean interns?

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