Compact brazed heat exchangers helped a manufacturer of pharmaceutical ingredients and intermediates achieve tight temperature control of its reactors.

Keeping the temperature of chemical reactions at the right level is a delicate matter. Often, the reaction takes place in a reactor and is very sensitive to temperature changes. Thus, being able to influence the temperature is of utmost importance for chemical industries. Depending on which kind of chemical reaction occurs, adding or rejecting heat with some sort of heating or cooling medium is necessary. Often, quite complex systems are needed for tempering the reactor.

Procos produces synthetic pharmaceutical active ingredients and advanced intermediates. In its plant at Cameri outside of Milan, Italy, more than 35 large reactors are in process, all with a need for temperature regulation.

The Problem. When the reactors were designed, the cooling and heating fluids entered directly into the reactor jacket. No intermediate heat exchangers were used. This meant that the jacket had to be emptied of one fluid before the next could be let in. This was a very slow responding system. Furthermore, problems occurred because of mistakes being made when emptying and filling the jacket. This caused the wrong brine to end up in the wrong system -- for example, cooling tower water in the steam system -- with large maintenance costs as a result.