Process analytics: A U.K. initiative

Littlejohn’s third remedy is sure to be much more controversial and fraught with complexity: A new way for instrument vendors to charge for on-stream analytical data.

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By Terrence K. McMahon

RECENTLY AT THE INVITATION of Lois Weyer (lweyer@fcc.net), I attended a talk by Professor David Littlejohn of the University of Strathclyde entitled: “Developments in On-Line and Non-Invasive Process Analysis Techniques at CPACT.” The venue was a meeting of the Delaware Valley SAS/ACS Process Spectroscopy Topical Group. Weyer headed the process analysis team at Hercules for many years and is a frequent presenter of short-courses on analyzer topics. Her current employer is ATK Elkton. This process spectroscopy group typically meets twice a year.

Professor Littlejohn (d.littlejohn@strath.ac.uk) was a prime mover in the formation of the Centre for Process Analytics and Control Technologies (CPACT) in 1997. This industry-led consortium (three universities, 16 operating companies) is developing an integrated approach to generic research in a range of topics that will advance the application of on-line analytical techniques in process analysis and process control. Littlejohn has been a professor of Analytical Chemistry since 1988. He is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (1991) as well as Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1998). Littlejohn has published over 140 papers on a variety of analytical chemistry subjects including process analysis.

Arlene Garrison, a prime-mover in the formation of the Measurement & Control Engineering Center at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, was an important advisor in organizing CPACT which follows the same model in combining government seed-funding with sustaining funding by industry. In CPACT’s case, seed-monies came from Britain’s Office of Science & Technology and is now in its second three-year program.

CPACT’s mission (www.cpact.com) is: “To research monitoring and control technologies that give manufacturing and processing companies the tools required to compete successfully in world markets and to address environmental, health and safety challenges.” CPACT’s Consortium Partners include three universities: University of Hull, Chemometrics; University of Newcastle, Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials; University of Strathclyde, Pure and Applied Chemistry.

CPACT’s 16 industrial partners include end users Avecia, BP Chemicals, GlaxoSmithKline, 3M Healthcare and BNFL, analyzer manufacturers Clairet Scientific, Foss UK, Perkin Elmer, Thermo ONIX, and Spectraprobe, process analysis and automation suppliers, Resonance Instrument, and Crystal Vision Micro Systems, and software manufacturers MDC Technology, Umetrics and Spotfire.
CPACT’s research charter encompasses a number of areas including monitoring of chemical processes, robust processes for solids materials, methodologies for process modeling, optimization and model portability, and real-time monitoring and control of bioprocesses.

Postgraduate education (masters and doctoral levels) as well as professional development for practicing engineers is an essential element as is the Annual International Conference APACT (Birmingham UK 20–22 April 2005).

Active research projects include: In-line Mid IR Spectroscopy for Reaction Monitoring, Low-field NMR Spectrometry for At-line Analysis, Passive Acoustic Monitoring with Broad Band Transducers, and Non-invasive Monitoring of Powder Blending.

Littlejohn cited major barriers to the increased use of on-stream analysis: High cost of the instrumentation and its commissioning, Low-level of trust in the analytical data, Scarcity of skilled personnel for analyzer commissioning and maintenance, Unrealistic expectations with regard to these installations. To overcome these barriers, he prescribed a step-change in knowledge and awareness, international cooperation in design standards, training and regulatory matters. Littlejohn’s third remedy is sure to be much more controversial and fraught with complexity: A new way for instrument vendors to charge for (and operating companies to pay for) on-stream analytical data.

On a related topic, Joe Sung (JosephSung@rohmhaas.com) is seeking a host for the 11th Chemical Industry Instrumentation Roundtable. Sung and Lee McPeters hosted the 10th CIIR (Roundtable) at Rohm and Haas in Trevose, Pa. in December 2001. Jim Tatera (jtatera@seidata.com) had hosted the 9th Roundtable at Dow Corning in April 2000. This is an important gathering for analyzer professionals to discuss generic concerns and address common problems. A Roundtable planned for Cincinnati last April in conjunction with ISA AD/2004 had to be cancelled due to a corporate relocation. A prime responsibility of the Host is identifying the next Host. Hopefully, an industry leader will step forward to help Mr. Sung complete his tenure.


  About the Author
Terrence K. McMahon of McMahon Technology Associates is the "Around the Loop" columnist for CONTROL magazine and ControlGlobal.com. He can be reached at Mcmahontec135@aol.com.

 

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