Just the medicine

We really have come a long way since Alexander Fleming famously discovered what he affectionately referred to as mould juice, but which we've come to know as penicillin

The current global pharmaceuticals market is estimated to be worth $300 billion a year and is growing rapidly.

Pharmaceutical manufacturing is not only big business, but also pivotal in keeping the population healthy.

Here, Clive Jones, managing director of Global Heat Transfer discusses best practice for keeping heat transfer systems running efficiently in pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Pharmaceutical processing requires the use of specialised heat transfer fluids designed to work at optimal operating temperature for prolonged periods of time. However, fluids must also be flexible: manufacturing pharmaceuticals requires broad operating temperatures because chemical reactions take place at high temperatures, whereas the crystallisation process takes place at lower temperatures.

Furthermore, thermal fluid used in pharmaceutical processing should be food grade in case of incidental contact with the product.

Food grade thermal fluids are highly refined mineral or synthetic oils designed specifically to be used in the processing of products for human consumption — food, beverages and pharmaceuticals.

They are non-toxic, non-irritating and have no odour to ensure consumer safety in the event of a leak or spillage. As you can imagine, this is an essential health and safety measure in the pharmaceutical industry.

Food grade fluids carry a HT-1 certificate issued by governing bodies such as NSF International and the US Food and Drug Association (FDA).

Maintenance

Heat transfer fluid maintenance and analysis are essential operations that need to be conducted on a regular basis. Unfortunately, some plant managers don’t realise there is a problem until it’s too late.

A heat transfer fluid’s thermodynamic attributes vary according to operating conditions. At high temperatures, a thermal fluid will experience chemical degradation. The freezing point of thermal fluid must be lower than ambient conditions. Alternatively, the temperature of the thermal fluid needs to be kept above ambient temperature to stop the heat transfer fluid from freezing.

To keep heat transfer systems in tip top shape, regular monitoring needs to be undertaken to establish the condition of the fluid. The best way to get the most out of thermal fluid is to test thoroughly and regularly. Regular representative fluid analysis and top-ups ensure a healthy system, while reducing downtime and decreasing the amount of costly thermal fluid changes.

Problems in heat transfer systems occur when fluids are left for prolonged periods of time without correct supervision and preventative maintenance. By monitoring heat transfer fluids on a regular basis, it is possible to detect problems and to take preventative actions that minimise degradation and oxidation, keeping pharmaceutical heat transfer applications efficient and cost-effective.

Ideally, any plant using heat transfer fluids should create a robust maintenance plan such as Global Heat Transfer’s Thermocare, that contains regular system analysis, fluid top-up and careful flashpoint and fouling management.

Maintaining a healthy heat transfer system is key for keeping a pharmaceutical manufacturing line rolling.

Plant managers have to contend with severe costs associated with downtime should thermal fluids be left to degrade to an extreme level. Well-maintained and healthy fluids facilitate a harmonious heat transfer system, which in turn keeps producing the medicines for a healthy world.

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