Around the world, manufacturers use processing plants to produce a nearly unlimited number of products. In many cases these processes are built in small, modular units either as skids or as modular container-based systems.
There are a number of different reasons for doing this. In some instances, building a process plant as a series of skids is used as an alternative to building a traditional built-in-place manufacturing plant. In these cases, process systems are built in modular sections in an off-site fabrication facility while civil site construction and service piping in being put in place at the manufacturing site.
When facilities are completed at the plant site, process system skids are shipped and installed incrementally at the plant site. This methodology can speed construction and reduce costs. It can also improve the quality of the piping system since it is installed in a controlled environment and can be factory tested prior to shipping.
Some skid-based systems stand alone, and some are portable, moved from location to location as needed. At Optimation we have designed and fabricated hundreds of skids for hundreds of clients. They have been installed at locations all over the world. The applications are varied and bridge dozens of industries. They vary in content from chemical skids, pharmaceutical skids, cosmetic skids, liquid coating skids, condensate skids, test stations for all kinds of products, batch making skids, filtration skids, gas headers and water headers.
At Optimation we are often asked to work with clients to help finalize the design of their technical innovations, help them realize manufacturability, and once achieved, scale up their system to increase capacity. Some recent skid-based processes are described below.
- One of the more interesting skids was used to produce jet fuel from farm waste. This process requires a series of reactions, first taking the farm waste to ethanol, then converting the ethanol to ethylene and jet fuel.
- Wind energy based on large scale windmills is widespread. We are working with a major corporation to design and build a skid-based robot system to 3D print concrete bases for the windmills in more cost-effective ways.
- We are designing and fabricating modular systems that can be placed in oil fields. These units can process the methane, routinely flared, into liquid methylene at cost effective rates. The liquid fuel can then be trucked or pumped for distribution. The result is less CO2 emissions and cost savings at the same time.
- We scaled up and helped build chemical plants that link hydrocarbon chains from CO2 for the manufacture of “green” plastics.
- We’ve built hydrogen distribution skids to fuel fleets of fork trucks operating indoors. The trucks are powered by fuel cells and the hydrogen fuel from the portable skids allows them to run with emission free operation.
- We have a client who developed a process to coat fruit and vegetables with organic material which can extend the shelf life without refrigeration. We built their coating stations as skid-based units for installation around the world. The result is less energy used for storage as well as less food spoiled.
The future of manufacturing in the United States continues to look strong. Skid based manufacturing process will be an important part of its growth.