OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

OSU, PNNL to lead part of a major national program in ‘chemical process intensification’

12/16/2016

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories will co-direct a key component of a new five-year, $70 million advanced manufacturing institute, with the goal of greater energy efficiency, increased manufacturing innovation, and more jobs in the nation’s chemical industries.  

The new institute, Rapid Advancement of Process Intensification Deployment, or RAPID, was announced last week by the U.S. Department of Energy. It will be coordinated by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

“Through matching grants and other support by state governments, private businesses and industry, this will encourage more than $140 million of technology development, education and training,” said Scott Ashford, the Kearney Professor and dean of the OSU College of Engineering.

“The emphasis will be on chemical process intensification, which is the development of chemical manufacturing equipment that is smaller, lighter-weight and more energy efficient. The result will be lower costs, and modular production of chemical plants that will help to boost the nation’s economic growth.”

OSU and PNNL, who have worked collaboratively for more than a decade to develop and commercialize process intensification technologies, will lead the Module Manufacturing Focus Area within the RAPID institute, and work with chemical equipment suppliers to advance lower-cost process intensification equipment. To date, RAPID consists of 75 companies, 34 academic institutions, seven national laboratories and other organizations.

“The selection of OSU and our colleagues at PNNL to lead this focus area is a tribute to 15 years of commitment by state leaders, Oregon businesses and our research universities,” said Brian Paul, the Tom and Carmen West Faculty Scholar of Manufacturing Engineering in the OSU College of Engineering, and leader of the new focus area.

“That long-term commitment is what it takes to become a national player that can advance technology with industry and create new job opportunities for Oregonians. Contract negotiations to finalize funding for the new institute are underway, and we hope to hit the ground running by next summer, launching some of the projects outlined in the original RAPID proposal.”

The new focus area, Paul said, is an outgrowth of the collaboration between OSU and PNNL through the Microproducts Breakthrough Institute which began in 2001. The success of that partnership has evolved into the Advanced Technology and Manufacturing Institute, located on the Hewlett Packard campus in Corvallis. It focuses on the research and commercialization of advanced materials and technologies being developed within OSU, in concert with research partners across Oregon and throughout the world.

The broader program approved last week will seek to improve domestic energy productivity, energy efficiency, cut operating costs and reduce waste in chemical industries as diverse as oil and gas, pulp and paper, and biofuel processing. Improved technologies, officials say, have the potential to save more than $9 billion annually just in process costs. Gains of 20 percent in efficiency and productivity within five years are being sought.

“In the module manufacturing focus area, we’ll work to create chemical equipment that is lighter, smaller and less expensive than existing equipment,” Paul said. “This will enable distributed chemical processing, like efforts to use solar energy to augment the energy content of natural gas. This could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, using solar thermal processes that are 70 percent solar-to-chemical efficient.”

The RAPID institute will work with downstream module manufactures and chemical companies to identify common intensified components that need to be mass produced.  By pooling resources and combining markets, these companies will encourage suppliers to make capital investments critical to reducing intensified component costs. And cheaper, lighter-weight equipment will enable module manufacturers to build chemical plants with greater efficiency and lower costs.

All of these steps, officials say, will improve the competitiveness of U.S. chemicals on the world stage.

The state of Oregon made significant cost share contributions to the RAPID institute, Paul said, which will help Oregon companies lead the way in creating new high-wage jobs and products to export from the Pacific Northwest.

This is the tenth institute aimed at improving the nation’s manufacturing competitiveness through a multi-agency network known as Manufacturing USA, supported with $700 million from the federal government. RAPID is one part of a commitment by the Obama administration to double U.S. energy productivity by 2030. The goal of all of these programs is to ultimately become self-supporting with heavy business and industry involvement.

OSU and Oregon expertise in microchannel manufacturing, 3D-inkjet printing, advanced materials, fine chemicals, microelectronics, food and beverage, advanced wood products, bio-refining, and carbon-free power generation - such as small modular nuclear reactors - are all part of the technological ecosystem that could benefit from RAPID investments in Oregon, officials say.

“The cumulative economic impact from these industries could one day mean billions of dollars and thousands of high-wage jobs for Oregonians,” Paul said. “We are creating the building blocks for an economy with staying power and the ability to export sustainable technologies to the world.”

College of Engineering

About the OSU College of Engineering: The OSU College of Engineering is among the nation's largest and most productive engineering programs. Since 1999, the college has more than tripled its research expenditures to $37.2 million by emphasizing highly collaborative research that solves global problems. It is a leader in signature research areas, including precision health, clean energy, resilient infrastructure and advanced manufacturing; and targeted strategic areas, including robotics, materials research and clean water.