Is PAT the Path to Sustainability?

Can PAT be used to leverage sustainability efforts? It appears so, as a discussion thread on this topic on the Process Analytical Technology group on LinkedIn has generated plenty of input and ideas.

The question was posed by Genentech’s Tina Larson, associate director of Process R&D, and (especially for those non-LinkedIn users) here’s what she learned:

“Energy savings must be realized by implementation of the appropriate PAT in a unit operation such as fluid bed drying, simply by prevention of over drying, one assumes,” writes Paul Davies, president of Expo Technologies. But upon scouring the Internet, Davies comes up empty for examples.

“Energy saving is a frequent, collateral reason for operating in the PAT environment,” says consultant Jack Carroll. He uses the example of fermentation: If you monitor and control key parameters, you could shut down the fermenter a few days early and gain all those power savings.

GSK scientist Darryl Ertl says he and a team there are working on just this kind of thing at present. (We’ll follow up with him soon.)

NNE Pharmaplan’s Alex Brindle notes that at one facility in North Carolina, PAT is used extensively and in part “to save water and potential damage to the environment.”

Energy savings and sustainability have always been secondary or tertiary considerations for pharma PAT implementations, but they are nonetheless gaining in importance, says Mettler Toledo’s Gregor Hsiao. “For pharma/biotech companies it is lower on the priority list (process yield, purity, and cycle time dominate) but has taken on renewed importance with the green chemistry push.” Interestingly, Hsiao says, he has never known customers to do energy cost analyses related to PAT even though the savings can be huge.

Ewan Jones of Perceptive Engineering concurs, noting PAT’s “raw economic advantage” in “VERY short timescales.”

More to come on this topic, and your comments are appreciated.

--Paul Thomas