"Recirculation Booth" protects BASF scientists - safer and more efficient work
Recently, catalyst research at the BASF chemical plant in De Meern has been taking place in an impressive, seven-metre-wide recirculating laminar downflow booth in stainless steel. This makes work less complicated, e.g. under several fume cupboards, and at the same time more efficient.
Dr Rob Gosselink, chemical scientist and project leader of the research team together with colleague Dr Esther Groeneveld, explains that BASF mainly works with powdered catalysts and decided to purchase a "Downflow Recirculation Booth". "So that our employees and the environment are protected when we work with these powders on a larger scale." Gosselink emphasises that the workers in the lab and also the environment were safe at all times. "In the lab we have workstation models for the extraction of powders, in which we can work safely with small volumes. For larger volumes, we previously had various individual safety fume cupboards that were connected to the existing lab workstation system. In addition, our staff had to make many extra arrangements before they could start working. This really limited us." Now the extraction is more or less automatic and thus much easier and faster, leaving more time for the actual scientific work.
" Because we are dealing with solid particles, we can filter the extracted air and reintroduce it into the cabin, which is also interesting from an energy point of view," says Rob Gosselink. There are also extraction arms installed in the cabin that are connected to the existing lab workstation system. The extraction arms are primarily intended to extract any (aqueous) vapours and gases that are produced during certain processes, such as drying the powders. Groeneveld adds that thorough consideration is being given to how best to future-proof the booth. "Not only did there have to be enough extraction arms, but the dimensions of the booth and the electrical systems also played a major role. Because with innovative research and development processes, you always have to be prepared for the fact that the scientists might work with other equipment with different dimensions later on."
No standard requests
DENIOS received the order after a tender to which three manufacturers responded. In addition to the attractive price, another decisive factor was that this manufacturer had a good track record at BASF and was willing to think along from the start. Rüpp: "We tailored our offer to the programme of the research team's wishes and requirements." "This was not a standard programme," adds Gosselink. "We needed a truly customised solution. A walk-in downflow booth with as much surface area as possible in the limited space we have available in the research hall. DENIOS was able to deliver this within the timeframe BASF wanted, within one and a half years from the first contacts we had. This already includes the tendering phase and securing the financing." Rüpp: "In addition, we didn't have a finished commercial product that we just had to install. We don't have standard cabins. We always build such products according to the customer's wishes, preferably to the millimetre. In this case, it was a 7 m wide and 3.5 m high unit manufactured in our production plant in the UK, which we had to bring inside the building and install in a confined space. This meant, among other things, that we had to balance under a lot of piping."
Result and customer benefit
The result is impressive. The walk-in downflow both not only complies with all regulations, but also fulfils the promises made in terms of sound pollution and lighting. The feared adverse effects of draughts and noise have not occurred. There are no draughts and no noise at all, which is remarkable considering the air exchange of 35,000 m³ per hour. Everything has gone exactly according to plan. Project managers Groeneveld and Gosselink knew exactly what they wanted from the start, but not how to achieve it. Rüpp: "The wishes and requirements were very clear, as I said, but not very detailed. That was good. They gave us every freedom in the implementation, so that we were not restricted from the outset by various complex requirements, and trusted in our expertise. We appreciated this very much and thanks to the excellent communication and cooperation during the project, there were no problems." DENIOS has been working with BASF for years, having previously developed and supplied a plant for the catalyst factory, and is therefore well placed to assess the needs of the chemical company.
Conclusion from the customer
Groeneveld: "The whole project started small. First you're working on a project and you think a small fume cupboard might be handy when you're working with larger quantities of powder. Then you talk to others, look at brochures, and before you know it, half the hall is filled with such a booth. And now we have a safe, protected area to work in," she says as she shows us the truly impressive booth together with her colleague and Sander Rüpp. "Working is not safer, because it was safe before, but it has become easier. I'll say it again: we now have to do less to guarantee the same level of safety, so we can start right away, so to speak!"
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