Pilot plant

Pilot plant

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A pilot plant is a small chemical processing system
Chemical plant
A chemical plant is an industrial process plant that manufactures chemicals, usually on a large scale. The general objective of a chemical plant is to create new material wealth via the chemical or biological transformation and or separation of materials. Chemical plants use special equipment,...

 which is operated to generate information about the behavior of the system for use in design
Design as a noun informally refers to a plan or convention for the construction of an object or a system while “to design” refers to making this plan...

 of larger facilities.

Pilot plants are used to reduce the risk
Risk is the potential that a chosen action or activity will lead to a loss . The notion implies that a choice having an influence on the outcome exists . Potential losses themselves may also be called "risks"...

 associated with construction of large process plants. They do this in two ways:
  • They are substantially less expensive to build than full-scale plants. The business
    A business is an organization engaged in the trade of goods, services, or both to consumers. Businesses are predominant in capitalist economies, where most of them are privately owned and administered to earn profit to increase the wealth of their owners. Businesses may also be not-for-profit...

     does not put as much capital
    Financial capital
    Financial capital can refer to money used by entrepreneurs and businesses to buy what they need to make their products or provide their services or to that sector of the economy based on its operation, i.e. retail, corporate, investment banking, etc....

     at risk on a project that may be inefficient or unfeasible. Further, design changes can be made more cheaply at the pilot scale and kinks in the process can be worked out before the large plant is constructed.
  • They provide valuable data
    The term data refers to qualitative or quantitative attributes of a variable or set of variables. Data are typically the results of measurements and can be the basis of graphs, images, or observations of a set of variables. Data are often viewed as the lowest level of abstraction from which...

     for design of the full-scale plant. Scientific data about reactions, material properties, corrosiveness, for instance, may be available, but it is difficult to predict the behavior of a process of any complexity. Engineering data from other process may be available, but this data can not always be clearly applied to the process of interest. Designers use data from the pilot plant to refine their design of the production scale facility.

If a system is well defined and the engineering parameter
Parameter from Ancient Greek παρά also “para” meaning “beside, subsidiary” and μέτρον also “metron” meaning “measure”, can be interpreted in mathematics, logic, linguistics, environmental science and other disciplines....

s are known, pilot plants are not used. For instance, a business that wants to expand production capacity by building a new plant that does the same thing as an existing plant may choose to not use a pilot plant.

Additionally, advances in process simulation
Process simulation
Process simulation is used for the design, development, analysis, and optimization of technical processes and is mainly applied to chemical plants and chemical processes, but also to power stations, and similar technical facilities.- Main principle :...

 on computers have increased the confidence of process designers and reduced the need for pilot plants. However, they are still used as even state-of-the-art simulation cannot accurately predict the behavior of complex systems.

Pilot plant is a relative term in the sense that plants are typically smaller than full-scale production plants, but are built in a range of sizes. Some pilot plants are built in laboratories
A laboratory is a facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific research, experiments, and measurement may be performed. The title of laboratory is also used for certain other facilities where the processes or equipment used are similar to those in scientific laboratories...

using stock lab equipment. Others are constructed of fabricated metal on dedicated concrete slabs and cost millions of dollars.

After data is collected from operation of a pilot plant, a larger production scale facility may be built. Alternatively, a demonstration plant, which is bigger than a pilot plant, but smaller than the full-scale production plant, may be built to demonstrate the commercial feasibility of the process. Businesses sometimes continue to operate the pilot plant in order to test ideas for new products, new feedstocks, or different operating conditions. Alternatively, they may be operated as production facilities, augmenting production from the main plant.