1. How can pharma manufacturers reduce heating needs?
It’s much easier for project teams to lower a manufacturing facility’s carbon footprint and improve energy efficiency in a meaningful way when they establish corporate sustainability goals from day one to support a proactive design approach. It is in those early days of design that reduction best practices need to be introduced, planned for and incorporated. That’s why “reduction” is the first step toward decarbonization. Achieving similar outcomes through renovations or incremental process improvements in an existing plant is possible, but it is much more difficult and expensive.
In the context of sustainable heating design for a pharma manufacturer, reduction can take many forms, including:
- Designing the building envelope to prevent heat loss and thereby reduce the plant’s heating burden.
- Optimizing the amount of outside ventilation air, especially for spaces that require 100% single-pass air.
- Rethinking the way a plant generates water for injection (WFI).
Example: eliminate WFI by distillation
Methods of water for injection generation have the potential to significantly reduce a plant’s heating load, and it’s a good example of the outsized role that steam production has occupied in traditional pharma manufacturing even as other, more sustainable options emerge.
Until 2017, manufacturers were required to distill their WFI if they planned to sell their product to the European market. This meant superheating feed water into pure steam before cooling it—a process that requires significant energy. In a recent CRB site study on behalf of a client, we found that 50% of the facility’s natural gas usage was attributed to this single process step. Even if that facility were to reduce their fossil fuel consumption by converting to electric boilers, they would still find themselves committing immense energy resources to WFI by distillation.
Today, the European Pharmacopoeia no longer requires distillation in WFI production. This regulatory shift has opened the door to more efficient approaches.
A client of ours recently walked through that door. This California-based commercial biologics CDMO began producing WFI without a distillation step—that is, their WFI is ambient rather than hot (AWFI versus HWFI). Using a continuous O3 sanitized storage tank with electrically heated backup sanitization, this client generates their AWFI using membrane-based techniques including two-pass reverse osmosis (RO), electrodeionization (EDI), and ultrafiltration (UF). This approach has freed them from the need for a facility steam system, which has helped them reduce their heating load and the associated costs.