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Increasing Capacity: Speciality Chemicals

A chemical plant capacity was increased by +43% - allowing planned CapEx to be delayed

Industry

Chemicals – Bulk and Speciality fine chemicals

Objective

Increase capacity by +30%

Project Length

6 months, 1.5 consultants leading multiple teams

Results

Plant capacity was increased by +43%, well beyond 30% project target

Capacity increase allowed planned CapEx to be delayed by 2 years, freeing up capital for other business priorities.

Cycle time of one key product reduced by >50% vs baseline

Client team continues to use improvement structures to improve more and push out CapEx further


Why was Chartwell brought on board?

This global chemical firm was experiencing significant growth in a very high-margin, low-volume specialty chemical product. In order to meet demand, it was projected that €10+ million of CapEx would be required over the next few years.

Project focus:

Increase the output by 30% to delay this CapEx another year, to give the business time to more accurately predict sales forecast, develop stronger customer relations and redirect capital to more important areas

Examples of project work

What did the process look like?

A two-stage esterification reaction conducted in tandem with distillation. Solvent recycling was a key step in the process, and at times could bottleneck capacity.

What methodology was used to improve capacity?

The main bottleneck of the process was the distillation phase. A Variable Tree Model was used to understand the parameters that control throughput.

This highlighted the need to, amongst other things, increase jacket temperature, reduce pressure and reduce solvent quantity.

A series of lab and plant trials were carried out to optimise these key variables.

Over what timescale were the improvements implemented?

Increased plant capacity was seen in the first weeks of the project. Soon the project team increased the capacity more than the current demand and we started planning idle time on the asset. Therefore, to see the full capacity we needed to run a week-long high-capacity trial, to determine how much improvement the team had achieved.

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