There is no denying the importance of the pharmaceutical industry. The products and innovations that come from it keep people healthy and can save lives. Perhaps this is why PricewaterhouseCoopers expects the market to grow to just about $1.6 trillion by 2020.
Despite the good that comes out of the pharmaceutical industry, there are some key problems the industry causes. Water and energy consumption are two things that industries of all kinds are working hard to decrease. Pharmaceuticals are not an exception.
According to the World Health Organization, the most widely used product in pharmaceutical manufacturing is water. It is used as a starting material, as an added substance in products, and in the processing of the products.
Being such a crucial ingredient and factor in the means of processing products, it's hard to get away from using so much water. However, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing pointed out that many companies have been focused on conserving water to achieve two goals: improve the sustainability of their operations and cut operational expenses.
The publication explained that one of the biggest culprits of high water usage is cooling towers. These provide an important step in the production of a wide range of products, including:
- Forming tablets
- Cooling creams and ointments
- Sterilizing liquids
- Batch processing
Unfortunately, these important towers typically use between 1 and 1.5 million gallons of water every year. That water is used for its intended purpose once, then discarded and, many times leaves the plant contaminated.
Not only do cooling towers use an exorbitant amount of water, but they are also heavy users of energy. Fans and pumps that are continuously running require high amounts of energy. Plus, contamination in forms of algae, solid deposits, microbiological growth, airborne diseases, scaling and more all require chemical treatment. This not only uses even more energy, but also further contaminates the water that is dispelled from the plant.
Shell and tube heat exchangers provide a solution
Given these issues, many pharmaceutical manufacturers have recognized the need to replace these important but costly cooling towers. A popular alternative is a closed-loop process cooling system.
According to Medical Design Technology, many manufacturers in other parts of the world have already begun to recognize the wide range of benefits offered by closed-loop process cooling systems, including:
- Decreased water and energy use
- Lowered operational costs
- Better control over cooling temperatures
- Greater profitability
These systems work using heat exchangers and an adiabatic chamber to cool process water, which is then available year-round at the correct temperature. Inside the chamber, a cooling mist is sprayed into the air when the temperature begins to creep up. The mist evaporates immediately so that it does not negatively affect the cooling process. The cooled water is circulated through the process machines.
"Water savings can reach up to 98 percent."
This technology reduces water consumption simply because it reuses water rather than getting rid of it and starting fresh with a new batch of water. Water savings can reach up to 98 percent using this method as opposed to the traditional cooling towers.
Pharmaceutical Manufacturing pointed out that the system also reduces other contamination problems associated with cooling towers. The water that is recycled meets the sanitary requirements that manufacturers must adhere to. Plus, since the water won't be contaminated, problems like airborne diseases such as Legionella are reduced.
Energy consumption is also reduced using these systems. Pharmaceutical Manufacturing reported that in some climates, the plant can even turn off the chillers during colder months, reducing energy use even further. Energy use could be reduced as much as 95 percent.
In today's ever-developing world, it's crucial that pharmaceutical manufacturers are operating at their best, and are doing so safely. However, for these companies to continue to become more profitable, it's important that they find ways to cut costs and reduce energy and water use. To learn about how shell and tube heat exchangers can help improve your operation, talk to the experts at Enerquip.