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European Pharmaceutical Contractor

IPPC Drives the Emissions Control Agenda

A new legislative framework designed to protect the environment and minimise waste and pollution - the integrated pollution, prevention and control (IPPC) regulations - is currently being implemented across EU member states, bringing with it a surge of interest in emissions abatement technologies among industries where harmful emissions are produced or used. Many pharmaceutical industry manufacturers are significant solvent-users, employing a wide range of organic solvents as part of everyday production processes. These solvents, or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), are harmful air pollutants and can be released at various stages of the production process from reactor vents, storage tanks and vacuum pumps. The current legislative focus on curbing air pollution means that managers of solvent-using industries are seeking ways of eliminating emissions from onsite processes. Some are waiting for developments in 'green chemistry', in the hope that solvent replacements can be found, while others are investing in long- term technological solutions that are both efficient and flexible. But as time runs out for IPPC compliance, how long can such industries afford to wait and what are the technological options open to them?

Tried and Tested Technologies

For more than a decade, many different forms of abatement technology have been tried and tested by pharmaceutical and chemical industry manufacturers. Their aim has been to recover harmful VOC emissions at their industrial source. Carbon activated technologies have been widely used, which work by trapping the VOC molecules in the pores of the carbon surface before removing them from the gas stream. Liquid carriers are also used and work by absorbing the solvent, which is dissolved and later recovered through a process of distillation.

However, the fastest developing area of technological development in emissions control, and the one which holds most promise in terms of achieving zero emissions targets, is cryogenic technology. This technology works by using liquid nitrogen to condense and effectively freeze out the VOCs from process gas streams. The benefits of VOC recovery are obvious. Not only does effective recovery protect the environment and ensure legislative compliance, but many VOCs also have a relatively high market value and can be reused. By far the main driver in the take up of solvent abatement technology, however, is legislation and keeping up with the pace of legislative change has become a primary managerial issue.


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By Diana Raine, Business Manager for Cryogenics in Europe at Air Products

Diana Raine is Air Products' Business Manager for Cryogenics in Europe and specialises in finding applications for cryogenic technology in modern industrial processes. She joined the company 12 years ago with a Masters degree in Chemical Engineering.

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