Smart Management of R&D Capacity and Catalyst Testing Programs

Based on requests from and discussions with our customers in recent years, we see a marked increase in the demand for so-called application testing compared to screening tests. This type of testing increases the understanding of catalyst behavior under different operating conditions (such as temperature, pressure, feed types and feed contaminants), to support the optimization or troubleshooting of chemical processes. This is understandable in view of the continuing increase in complexity of catalyst systems and catalytic processes.

Long-term planning vs. short-term demand

Such demands on testing, in combination with the continuing drive, to shorten time-to-market of new catalysts, put substantial stress on available R&D resources. Planning and determining the appropriate testing capacity are made difficult because such application testing can be lengthy (for example with aging tests can take multiple months) and are difficult to predict, which results in unexpected peaks in the demand for testing units.

Often longer-term catalyst development programs are squeezed out by short-term demand to serve the running business. As research from d’ArtisKancs et al. has shown, the challenge put on the R&D capacity can impact the growth of a company up to a factor of 2.

Figure 1: From all companies running catalyst testing projects in Avatntium 60 % have their own R&D and even 40 % their own high-throughput testing capabilities.

Ways to solve the capacity limitation

One approach to tackle this problem is by considering the testing capacity along similar lines as a manufacturing asset in a business with fluctuating demand. Manufacturing companies in such businesses often optimize their assets by applying a flexible, outsourced extension to their base-load capacity. Catalyst testing capacity can be approached in a similar manner and recent research from C. Annique Un showed in “Absorptive capacity and R&D outsourcing” that a diverse approach can help to manage those constraints based on the internal resources.

In this way, outsourced catalyst testing should be considered as a structural part of the R&D infrastructure, instead of on an ad-hoc basis. Of course, externally spent costs often seem high in comparison with using existing fixed assets. However, Rodgers et al. demonstrate that project KPI’s like speed, quality, and innovativeness have a greater impact on the decisions than conventional ones, such as costs. At Avantium, we already see substantial amounts of outsourced projects from companies that have their own high-throughput testing capabilities (figure 1), illustrating that having one’s own high-throughput testing capabilities does not exclude outsourced projects.

Conclusion

We have analyzed the nature of testing projects executed by Avantium over the last 5 years (figure 2) and noted that there are a large number of projects that are of a structural nature, whereby the R&D departments of companies are viewing outsourced catalyst testing as an integral part of their overall R&D capacity.

In conclusion, integrating external catalyst testing capacity into your existing internal infrastructure can help to handle the conflicting demands of both short-term testing and long-term programs.

Publications

Annique Un – Absorptive capacity and R&D outsourcing

d’ArtisKancs et al. – R&D and non-linear productivity growth

Peter Rodgers et al. – Determinants of location choice decisions of offshored R&D projects

Figure 2: The nature of testing projects executed by Avantium over the last 5 years.

Flowrence® products specifications

Reactor Section

Easy and quick reactor exchange system. Possibility to use quartz reactors at high pressure.

1 block of 4 reactors

HT = High Temperature max. 800°C nominal, limited to 925°C (<0.5°C reactor to reactor deviation)

4 blocks of 4 reactors

HT  or MT = Medium Temperature max. 525°C (<0.5°C block-to-block deviation)

16 reactors with iRTC

individual Reactor Temperature Control
max. 550°C (<0.5°C reactor-to-reactor)

4 reactors with iRTC

individual Reactor Temperature Control
max. 550°C (<0.5°C reactor-to-reactor)

Temperature Ranges (°C)

100 – 800°C
up 925°C (Option)

50 – 525°C
100 – 800°C
up 925°C (Option)

50 – 550°C

50 – 550°C

Reactor Types

L= Length
OD= Outer Diameter
ID= Inner Diameter
SS= Stainless Steel (< 550⁰C)
Qz= Quartz (< 925⁰C)

L 300 mm 561 mm
OD 3 mm 6 mm
ID SS 2 / 2.6 mm 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 mm
ID Qz 2 mm 2 / 4 mm
300 mm 561 mm 561 mm
3 mm 3 mm 6 mm
2 / 2.6 mm 2 / 2.6 mm 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 mm
2 mm 2 mm 2 / 4 mm
561 mm
3 mm
2 / 2.6 mm
2 mm
561 mm
3 mm
2 / 2.6 mm
2 mm

Maximum Catalyst Bed Length

(isothermal zone tolerance ± 1°C)
Note: isothermal length is dependent on the temperature range

300 / 3 HT 561 / 6 HT
>120 mm @ 450°C >200 mm @ 500°C
>90 mm @ 800°C >150 mm @ 800°C
>140 mm @ 925°C
300 / 3 HT 561 / 3 MT 561 / 6 HT
>120 mm @ 450°C >310 mm @ 450°C >200 mm @ 500°C
>90 mm @ 800°C >150 mm @ 800°C
>140 mm @ 925°C
561 / 3 MT iRTC
250°C ±0.5°C 41cm (4reactors)
350°C±0.5°C 38cm (4reactors)
550°C±0.5°C 28cm (4reactors)
3 reactors at 550°C, 1 reactor 350°C:
550°C=27cm 350°C=41cm ±0.5°C
561 / 3 MT iRTC
250°C ±0.5°C 41cm (4reactors)
350°C±0.5°C 38cm (4reactors)
550°C±0.5°C 28cm (4reactors)
3 reactors at 550°C, 1 reactor 350°C:
550°C=27cm 350°C=41cm ±0.5°C

Catalyst Volume (mL)

(isothermal zone)

0.2 - 0.6 mL 0.4 - 2.0 mL
0.2 - 0.6 mL 0.4 - 1.0 mL 0.4 - 2.0 mL
0.4 - 1.0 mL
0.4 - 1.0 mL

Pressure Ranges (barg)

2 – 80 barg
0.5 – 180 barg (option)

2 – 100 barg
0.5 – 180 barg

2 – 80 barg
0.5 – 180 barg

2 – 20 barg
2 – 50 barg (option)

Reactor Pressure Control

Advanced control RSD ±0.1 barg at reference conditions (gas phase only and 20 barg). For trickle flow Advanced control RSD ±0.5barg.

Standard (±0.5 barg)
Advanced (±0.1 barg) (option)

Standard (±0.5 barg)
Advanced (±0.1 barg) (option)

Advanced (±0.1 barg)

Advanced (±0.1 barg)

Gas Feed Lines

(#Gas Feeds)

Up to 6 + Diluent gas

He, Ar, N2, H2, CH4, CO2, C2H4, C2H6, O2/Inert (≤5%), CO, Other gases

Up to 7 + Diluent gas

He, Ar, N2, H2, CH4, CO2, C2H4, C2H6, O2/Inert (≤5%), CO, Other gases

Up to 7 + Diluent gas

He, Ar, N2, H2, CH4, CO2, C2H4, C2H6, O2/Inert (≤5%), CO, Other gases

Up to 6 + Diluent gas

He, Ar, N2, H2, CH4, CO2, C2H4, C2H6, O2/Inert (≤5%), CO, Other gases

Online Analysis

Full integration GC, MS , GC/MS with data visualisation (option)

Full integration GC, MS , GC/MS with data visualisation

Full integration GC, MS , GC/MS with data visualisation

Full integration GC, MS , GC/MS with data visualisation

Liquid Feed

 Split feeding 8 + 8 reators (option)

Pump-Coriolis dosing system
(ambient, cooled)

Pump-Coriolis dosing system
(ambient, cooled, heated 80°C)

Pump-Coriolis dosing system
(ambient, cooled, heated 80°C)

Pump-Coriolis dosing system
(ambient, cooled, heated 80°C)

Liquid Distribution

Microfluidic Distribution
(4-channel glass-chip)

Microfluidics Distribution
(4x4-channel glass-chip)
(16-channel glass-chip)
Active Liquid Distribution (option)
(with automatic isolation valves)

Active Liquid Distribution
(with automatic isolation valves)

Microfluidic Distribution
(4-channel glass-chip)

Liquid Sampling

(G/L Separation)

Parallel liquid sampling (4 x 20ml vials) with sequential on-line gas phase sampling (option)

Automated liquid sampling (4 rows x 16 vials x 8ml) with sequential on-line gas phase sampling (option)

Automated liquid sampling (4 rows x 16 vials x 8ml) with sequential on-line gas phase sampling (option)

Parallel liquid sampling (4 x 20ml vials) with sequential on-line gas phase sampling (option)

Reactors Effluent Handling

(Off-line Analysis Connection)

Full heated circuit up to 180°C with sequential on-line full gas phase sampling (option)

Full heated circuit up to 200°C with sequential on-line full gas phase sampling

Full heated circuit up to 200°C with sequential on-line full gas phase sampling

Full heated circuit up to 200°C with sequential on-line full gas phase sampling

Offline Analysis

Integrated Workflow: SimDist, total S/N, liquid density, balance, label printer, barcode (option)

Integrated Workflow: SimDist, total S/N, liquid density, balance, label printer, barcode

Integrated Workflow: SimDist, total S/N, liquid density, balance, label printer, barcode

Integrated Workflow: SimDist, total S/N, liquid density, balance, label printer, barcode

Waste Handling

Ambient temperature
Heated wax trapping (option)

Ambient temperature / Cooled containers / Heated compartment (wax trapping, heavies)

Ambient temperature / Cooled containers / Heated compartment (wax trapping, heavies)

Ambient temperature / Cooled containers / Heated compartment (wax trapping, heavies)

Safety

Gas sensors and control box (CO, LEL, VOC)

Gas sensors and control box (CO, LEL, VOC)

Gas sensors and control box (CO, LEL, VOC)

Gas sensors and control box (CO, LEL, VOC)

Flowrence® Software

Flowrence® recipe builder, control & database builder

Flowrence® recipe builder, control & database builder

Flowrence® recipe builder, control & database builder

Flowrence® recipe builder, control & database builder

Microfluidics modular gas distribution

Unrivalled accuracy in gas distribution with patented glass-chips for 4 and 16 reactors, with a guaranteed flow distribution of 0.5% RSD. Quick exchange of glass-chips for different operating conditions. Flexibility to cover a wide range of applications.

TinyPressure glass-chip holder with integrated pressure measurement

Compact modular design for gas and liquid distribution. No high-temperature pressure sensors required. Quick exchange of the microfluidic glass-chips, without the need for time-consuming leak testing.

Tube-in-tube reactor technology with effluent dilution

Unique tube-in-tube design with easy and rapid exchange of the reactor tubes (within minutes!). No need for any connections. Use of inert diluent gas (outside of reactor) to maintain the pressure prevents dead volumes and back flow. Possibility to use quartz reactors at high pressure applications.

Automated liquid sampling system

Programmable, fully automated liquid product sampling robot for 24/7 hands-off operation. Robot equipped with a compact manifold aiming at depressurizing the effluent immediately after each reactor to atmospheric pressure. Eliminates the use of high pressure valves.

Reactor Pressure Control (RPC)

The most accurate and stable pressure regulator for a 16-parallel reactors with just ±0.1bar RSD. The RPC uses microfluidics technology to regulate the pressure of each reactor, maintaining equal distribution of the inlet flow over the 16 reactors.

Auto-calibrating liquid feed distribution, measurement, and control

Distribution of difficult feedstocks e.g., VGO, HVGO, DAO. Liquid distribution 0.2% RSD, making it the most accurate liquid distribution device on the market. Option to selectively isolate each reactor.

Single-Pellet-String-Reactors (SPSR)

No dead-zones, no bed packing & distribution effects. The catalyst packing is straightforward and does not require special procedures. A single string of catalyst particles is loaded in the reactors avoiding maldistribution, eliminating channeling and incomplete wetting.

EasyLoad®

Unique reactor closing system with no connections. Rapid reactor replacement minimizing delays, improving uptime and reliability. Stable evaporation by liquid injection into reactor.

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Avantium Headquarters

+31 (0)20 586 8080

Zekeringstraat 29
1014 BV Amsterdam
The Netherlands

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