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What are the benefits of glass equipment for process plants?

Because of the traditional look and feel of a process plant, glass might not be a first choice that comes to mind, but for many applications glass could be your most viable solution. Here, are the benefits of using glass components.

Excellent Corrosion and Chemical Resistance

Glass equipment provides unsurpassed corrosion resistance to saline solutions, organic substances, halogens such as chlorine and bromine, alkaline mixtures, and many acids (nitric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid). Its resistance to chemical attack is superior to that of most metals and other materials, even during prolonged periods of exposure and at temperatures above 100 °C. The corrosion resistance glass offers also applies to the exterior, making glass a good choice for corrosive plant environments. And if you have concerns about corrosion rates, there are simple methods to measure the wall thickness of your equipment to keep track of how its holding up to your process.

Ideal Surface Properties

Some materials of construction can pose housekeeping issues when it comes to ease of cleaning. Not glass! With an anti-adhesive and nonporous surface that resists the buildup of viscous or sticky products, borosilicate glass is a popular choice for processes where ease of cleaning is critical. And its transparency allows you to see when equipment needs to be cleaned without the need for interrupting the process and performing an internal inspection.

Unmatched Visibility

Unlike most plastic and metal materials, glass equipment provides transparency to give you an unobstructed view of what is going on inside your system, enhancing the observation of your process. For photosensitive substances, brown coated glass is also available to offer extra protection. And if you have concern over potential mechanical stresses inflicted on the glass, Sectrans coating is available; this optional covering is applied to the glass surface to add protection against scratches, blows and splintering.

Chemical Inertness

Aggressive reaction environments tend to dissolve metals from unlined mild steel or alloy reactors. Extractable metals, such as chromium, nickel, molybdenum, and copper, can leach into and contaminate your product, producing undesired catalytic effects that can cause harmful fluctuations in the process reactions. These metals can compromise product quality, negatively affect product yield, and in some cases even cause runaway reactions. Because there is no interaction or ion exchange between the process media and glass, there is no catalytic effect and no contamination. The inertness of borosilicate glass also means it is nonflammable and therefore approved for installation in explosive atmospheres.

As with any option, there are a few limitations of glass that we need to address:

Incompatible Solutions

There are only a few chemicals which can cause noticeable corrosion of the glass - hydrofluoric acid, concentrated phosphoric acid and strong caustic solutions at elevated temperatures. However, at ambient temperatures caustic solutions up to 30% concentration can be handled by borosilicate glass without difficulty.

Size Range

While some may consider the compact design of glass to be a benefit in many plants where space is at minimum, there are certain instances where the available size range of glass can be restrictive for systems that need to process larger volumes. Vessels, columns and heat exchangers have a limiting diameter of 1000 mm (39.4 inches) when built out of Borosilicate glass. If the size limitation is a problem for your plant, a combination of glass-lined products and glass components can be your solution.

Operating Precautions

Additionally, there are some limitations related to mechanical and thermal shocks that aren’t applicable to other materials of construction. While some extra precautions do need to be taken, the material does have a wide operating range and can operate reliably and efficiently if the proper guidelines are followed.

Although glass may not be your first “go-to” material of construction for your new plant, with the wide range of benefits demonstrated here, glass could be your best solution. Don’t be afraid of working with glass! The resistance and versatility of the material, especially when applied to highly corrosive and abrasive operations, can increase the operating life and capabilities of your system.

If you would like more information about our complete plant solutions and working with glass for your next plant upgrade or new process, contact us and one of our highly qualified personnel will gladly help you.

Click on this link for more information about our borosilicate glass components and to view the catalog.