Monday, February 22, 2010

Informex 2010 and Green Engineering

The show

I visited the most recent Informex show put on by UBM and SOCMA in San Francisco last week. I was very interested in seeing the messaging that manufacturers were using to communicate their products and services to each other. Has the messaging changed since the global downturn?

It appears that for the majority of the exhibitors, the booths and brochures are still focused on the basics: Here is our product list, inquire for prices and delivery. However, I saw a significant number of exhibitors that were aggressively touting their companies' value-add: quality, post-deal service, speed, and custom products/services. It was good to see these companies really setting themselves apart in what's obviously a very competitive landscape. I'll be visiting with our staff here to see how best to position Chemstations to be a part of our customers' plans to remain competitive and successful.

Seeing green

I attended the "Green Chemistry Breakfast Briefing" on Friday morning and listened to three presentations by representatives from industrial companies regarding their implementations of Green Chemistry and Green Engineering. The meeting was produced by the ACS Green Chemistry Institute. I learned a little about the initiatives in place to create an ANSI standard, a "Greener Chemicals Product and Process Standard." I'm interested to hear whether this will end up as a self-certifying procedure or whether it will follow the ISO standard certification path and require third-party labs to be involved. I'm sure all the stakeholders have strong opinions!

All the presenters emphasized that there have been strong economic drivers to using these Green methodologies: lower energy usage, less waste, less recycle of solvents, and so forth. Following the presentations, I was left with a question that always comes up when discussing this type of optimization (Green or not): How do you manage the tradeoffs between optimization/efficiency/Green and operating flexibility?

In today's dynamic, global market, a manufacturer needs single-product flexibility (make more or less to suit market demand), as well as multi-product flexibility (make a product slate using existing facilities to suit market demand). If you optimize a single product or process, you may lose both types of flexibility. The panel tolerated my question with varying degrees of enthusiasm, but the message I came away with is that in the short term, the tradeoffs are more severe, but with long-term planning of products, processes, equipment, and facilities, there will be fewer tradeoffs.

Finally, I'd like to post the "12 Principles of Green Engineering" as described by Anastas & Zimmerman ("Design through the Twelve Principles of Green Engineering", Env. Sci. and Tech., 37, 5, 95, 101, 2003.):

The Twelve Principles of Green Engineering

  1. Inherent Rather Than Circumstantial
    Designers need to strive to ensure that all materials and energy inputs and outputs are as inherently nonhazardous as possible.
  2. Prevention Instead of Treatment
    It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it is formed.
  3. Design for Separation
    Separation and purification operations should be designed to minimize energy consumption and materials use.
  4. Maximize Efficiency
    Products, processes, and systems should be designed to maximize mass, energy, space, and time efficiency.
  5. Output-Pulled Versus Input-Pushed
    Products, processes, and systems should be "output pulled" rather than "input pushed" through the use of energy and materials.
  6. Conserve Complexity
    Embedded entropy and complexity must be viewed as an investment when making design choices on recycle, reuse, or beneficial disposition.
  7. Durability Rather Than Immortality
    Targeted durability, not immortality, should be a design goal.
  8. Meet Need, Minimize Excess
    Design for unnecessary capacity or capability (e.g., "one size fits all") solutions should be considered a design flaw.
  9. Minimize Material Diversity
    Material diversity in multicomponent products should be minimized to promote disassembly and value retention.
  10. Integrate Material and Energy Flows
    Design of products, processes, and systems must include integration and interconnectivity with available energy and materials flows.
  11. Design for Commercial "Afterlife"
    Products, processes, and systems should be designed for performance in a commercial "afterlife."
  12. Renewable Rather Than Depleting
    Material and energy inputs should be renewable rather than depleting.
What do you think of these? Are you already approaching business using these principles or something similar? Are there marketing benefits to promoting Green engineering in your organization? Are there drawbacks to competing with companies who do not subscribe to these principles?

Talk back

I'd really like your feedback and thoughts on these topics. I can envision a spreadsheet-scorecard for a process flowsheet generated in CHEMCAD to give qualitative comparisons of processes, and maybe even some quantitative analysis for the future ANSI standard. Who knows, maybe some of you are already doing just that. Let us know!

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