After we completed one expansion project for E-Ink, they approached us to help them expand an upstream portion of the process that involved both flammable and nonflammable chemicals. The non-flammables were not an issue, but the increased quantities of flammables posed a potential problem. In order for their facility to be within regulatory compliance, we had to build a room using damage limiting construction. We specialize in this type of construction so we knew what to expect. We had to get creative, however, for two reasons; 1) their existing facility was cramped as it was, and 2) converting their existing manufacturing area to a hazard rated room would have been overly expensive.
Our solution: we were able to “steal” a small space adjacent to the manufacturing room and built an explosion proof “bunker” and relocate the flammable unit operations into this room. The materials processed in this room were transferred through closed piping to the adjacent non-rated room where they were mixed with the nonflammables and became harmless.
SPEC has years of experience designing and building damage limiting construction. In order to pull it off, all of the other trades had to work together and each contributed their expertise.
- Architecture – The room’s walls, ceiling, and floor had to be designed with certain fire ratings. We also had to design a containment system so spills did not escape from the room.
- HVAC – A dedicated system had to be installed for this room to provide enough air flow to keep flammable vapors under their explosive limits.
- Electrical – All components had to be rated for an explosion proof environment, including room lighting, motors, etc. We also installed a back up generator so that the HVAC would remain running during power outages, preventing the build up of flammable vapors to potentially dangerous levels.
- Process Engineering – All pressure vessels had proper relief devices installed that relieved to a safe location in case of a fire or over pressure situation.
- Instrumentation/Controls – In addition to properly rated instruments, we designed a leak detection system and gas sniffer system to identify flammable vapors in the space. We also tied everything together through the control system so that everything worked in harmony.
In the end, E-Ink had an expanded production facility that was safer, more flexible, and produced more consistent product. They were able to increase their yields by 85%.
Mr. Pascoal, a Chemical Engineer, has been with SPEC since 2005, during which, he has served as a Sr. Process Engineer and currently a Project Manager.