Most pharmaceutical companies maintain controlled surroundings workspaces for pilot production, research &, occasionally, for manufacturing of the general products. All these pharma companies share an air quality difficulty: exhaust from laboratory workstation fume hoods or other processing areas should be safely discharged into the air without causing re-entrainment, developing an odour problem, or breaching environmental regulations.

Most pharmaceutical manufacturers also deal with high energy prices for their HVAC systems, & particularly for their conditioned, controllable environment establishments. Energy prices for pharmaceutical research & manufacturing are among the utmost such costs for all SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) categories.

Exhausting lab workstation fume hoods have been managed by centrifugal belt-driven fans with high, individually-devoted stacks or combined multi-stacks on the rooftop. At the same time, mixed-flow impeller tech with low-profile rooftop exhaust systems has been gaining approval over the last few decades as a resolution to exhaust cost & safety tests.

At many top pharmaceutical companies, mixed-flow impeller rooftop fans send their exhaust flows hundreds of feet into the atmosphere in a top-down plume, diluting outer air with discharged gases at the point of release. However, this high-efficient plume dispersal wards off local re-entrainment &, through high-efficiency blending of the discharge air with the encircling atmospheric air, weeds out potential odour issues at ground level.

Based on the pharmaceutical analysis, mixed-flow fan systems might also reduce unnecessary power losses since they might pre-heat (& pre-cool) makeup air prior it enters a building. However, this is achieved by the introduction of heat transferring run-around coils that trap exhaust heat & return it in a secured way to the incoming air stream. Moreover, this system allows substantial, secured power savings for research & manufacturing organizations.

Exhaust Flow Dilution Averts Re-Entrainment

The roof exhaust system’s primary purpose is to avert re-entrainment, to ensure healthy IAQ (Indoor Air Quality), & alignment to local legislation. In case re-entrainment happens, there is a real threat to employees in a pharma industry because of exhaust re-entrainment thru building intake vents, windows, doors, & other openings.

Re-entrainment might be caused by ineffective roof fans, bad location or design of exhaust stacks, weather & wind conditions, building air intake’s position, & a host of other factors.

Nonetheless, the legal effects of re-entrainment might extend well beyond management. Building owners, HVAC duct manufacturers, consulting engineers, & even architects have been called defendants in major events associated with staff member illness & IAQ.

Research labs at most pharmaceutical organizations might range from discrete prototyping structures to complex BSL (Biosafety Containment Level) 3 or 4 facilities, which need accurate, repeatable control & management over such environmental parameters as pressure, temperature, airflow & humidity almost always in the composite.

While all BSL 3 & 4 labs have terminal HEPA filters, the thought of rooftop exhaust re-entrainment can’t be ignored as there is always the possibility for filter failure & a highly effective plume discharge is essential during fumigation methods.

 As high containment BSL labs present a unique set of issues concerning re-entrainment & pollution abatement, they’re governed by strict pollution-abatement codes & standards promulgated by organizations that include the ANSI (American National Standards Institute), the ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration & Air conditioning Engineers), OSHA & CDC. At times, there are hard-&-fast codes, just guidelines, & recommendations.

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Special Exhaust Necessities at BSL Labs

Biosafety level labs of the containment levels 3 & 4 must include special design & engineering features to avoid microorganisms from being discharged into the atmosphere. These features would typically incorporate specially shielded solitary rooms under negative pressure with HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Arresting), sophisticated control, terminal filters, & monitoring systems for guiding their environmental parameters. They might also need 100% conditioned composed air to avoid the re-use of surrounding air inside an enclosed facility.

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Of course, exhaust emissions from lab workstations at these facilities should be treated cautiously, including the release of fumigation gases. They can be highly noxious or toxic, or both. Even if the exhaust stream from GI Duct doesn’t present health problems, the public will no longer bear annoying odors, whereas government agencies are constantly setting more strict standards & lowering tolerable exposure bounds.

HEPA Filter Modules Minimize Dust Release

In pharmaceutical research labs & pilot processing zones, a dedicated air supply & exhaust system is critical to safety & comfort. Usually, the HVAC system is independent of all the other supply & exhaust systems inside the building.

Due to increasingly strict environmental rules, mixed-flow impeller systems, including BIBO (Bag-in/Bag-out) HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Arresting) modules & filters, are also being used for the pilot plant, research & trading manufacturing environments. However, the modules are usually matched with application-specific filtering media that accommodate several ASHRAE & HEPA filter efficiencies.

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Mixed-flow impeller systems with High-Efficiency Particulate Arresting modules & filters are especially useful at manufacturing sites, as unwanted dust is built during the manufacturing & packaging cycle. Origins for this dust vary from tableting, product mixing, drying, spray coating, & even packaging.

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Heat Recovery & Energy Savings

Mixed-flow impeller systems might offer substantial power savings if they are provided with heat recovery modules comprised of water-filled/glycol coils that weed out heat from workstation fume hood exhaust before it is released above the roofline.

However, the warm air out of the heat exchanger is moved to the supply-side handler to warm up the conditioned air coming inside the building, thus minimizing the amount of fuel oil or natural gas required to heat makeup air. This method works a similar way for cold air.

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By some estimations, mixed-flow impeller exhaust devices with heat exchanger coils conserve around 3% of power costs for every 1° F rise in recovered heat. Similarly, but not quite as drastic, savings are implemented for cooling applications. Systems like these are most practical while outside air temperatures are below 5° C (40° F) or above 27° C (80° F). On the cooling side, in case the outside temperature of the air is 32° C (90° F) & the chilled indoor air is delivered thru the heat recovery coils, the mixed air temperature drop is usually 4° to 5° F.

Usually, mixed-flow impeller fans consume about 25-percent less energy than regular centrifugal fans & also offer faster amortization periods. Typical power reduction is $0.44 per CFM (Cubic foot per Minute) at $0.10/kilowatt-hour, offering an approximate 2-year return on investment.

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Up on the Rooftop

Usually, tall exhaust stacks from centrifugal fans need complex, costly mounting hardware (spring vibration isolator, elbows, flex connectors, roof curbs, guy wires, etc.) & often still don’t completely avoid re-entrainment of exhaust gases back inside the building or nearby facilities. Moreover, they provide an unwanted but recognizable sign as to the procedures being executed inside the facility.

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The rooftop mounted, belt-driven fans also need regular maintenance. Due to this, they are often housed within a rooftop penthouse, which safeguards workers from the elements in the course of maintenance. However, these workers can also be subject to exposure to harmful & toxic fumes, as the fan’s discharge is constantly under positive pressure.

The discrete design of mixed-flow impeller rooftop exhaust systems is usually about 15 ft high, which eliminates the requirement for structural reinforcements on the rooftop. As they are substantially shorter compared to taller stacks, installation costs & time are reduced. In many upgrade applications, there is nearly no downtime related to their installation.

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Under usual conditions, mixed-flow impeller rooftop systems are designed to function continuously for years without any need for maintenance. However, direct-drive motors have lifespans of L10 400,000 hours. And the non-stall features of the blade design allow variable-frequency drives to be utilized for added VAV (variable-air-volume) savings, design flexibility, & built-in redundancy. These fans also function at low noise levels compared to centrifugal fans, especially in the low octave bands. While noise is still a problem, accessories such as discrete acoustical silencer nozzles might be used.

In many top pharma companies, aesthetics might be an issue as well. When retrofitting or designing a new rooftop exhaust system, the height of the stack should be considered for different reasons already stated.

Low-profile systems might also help to resolve the operational/aesthetic/architectural issues related to high-profile stacks.For facilities considering retrofit, upgrade, or construct new lab workstation establishments or process areas, mixed-flow impeller tech exhaust systems constitute a practical & cost-effective approach for avoiding re-entrainment, avoiding pollution & neighbourhood odour, complying with aesthetic ordinances & standards, & cutting power costs. Depending on current trends, this tech will likely continue to meet the requirements of a growing base of bio pharma & manufacturing organizations.

Exhaust System Guide for the Pharmaceutical Industry

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