Safe outsourcing of chemical processes not an easy task


Alfred Schnyder 
SCHNYDER Safety in Chemistry Ltd.
Gewerbehaus Oederlin, Landstrasse 2B, CH-5415 Rieden-Nussbaumen, Switzerland


The outsourcing of chemical productions with all its technologically sophisticated process steps is a big business today. This involves the manufacture of chemicals that have been produced for several years already, as well as new developed chemicals that never have been produced on large scale. Most of these are realized batch wise in Multi-product plants, expensive specialty chemicals as well as cheap chemicals. That is why; custom synthesis is of economic interest. However, with all their advantages, Multi-product plants have system-inherent drawbacks with respect to safety. For each process step one must prove with the systematic approach whether the existing plant and the existing organisation are capable to control the risks of the process. Thus, the challenge for Multi-product chemistry is not only to avoid disastrous accidents but also production losses. 


Liquid, solid and gaseous chemicals are processed ―partly under high pressure and at high temperatures. They might be toxic, combustible, decomposable and explosible. Production is realized in multi-product plants. Complicated, multi-steps processes are performed in such plants using relatively simple production facilities. In these facilities, the safety installations are not tailored for all the processed chemicals, because their flexibility and their particularity would be lost.

Control of the process is largely determined by the particular characteristics of the chemical reaction and by the capabilities of the existing facility. Further, with batch wise production the actual targets of optimum process control are more difficult to quantify than with continuous processes. As a rule, a batch process is examined less thoroughly because the production volume typically is small.

Multi-product chemistry is the field of organic chemists. Traditionally, their education is based on molecular chemistry, where the emphasis is on product development and not on process development. This, ...