The benefits of process intensification lie in reducing waste, energy consumption, costs, operating time and equipment size, as well as increasing efficiency, safety and flexibility.
A multi-physics, multi-scale approach to process engineering is envisaged, based on four fundamental pillars: structure, thermodynamics, synergy and time.
In this context, membrane processes not only enable the intensification of conventional processes, but can also be intensified themselves. They are also flexible, simple to use and easy to integrate or couple with other processes.
One example of EPM's mastery is the replacement of thermal seawater desalination processes by reverse osmosis, reducing energy consumption, footprint, investment and operating costs. Now, to intensify the reverse osmosis process, we need to introduce upstream ultrafiltration treatment to reduce costs in the face of algal problems.
The replacement of conventional pretreatments (settling tank, sand filter, diatomaceous earth filter, etc.) by membrane processes such as microfiltration or ultrafiltration is also undergoing rapid development.
The key points of such process intensification are:
1) Identifying the limiting stage for a given process, and then remedying it by developing a membrane process, alone or coupled, adapted to industrial constraints,
2) The development of proofs of concept for processes scaled up from laboratory to pilot scale,
3) Verification of the investment (CAPEX) and operating (OPEX) costs that need to be improved, even though the technical benefits of intensification have often been demonstrated.