Averaging level control to reduce off-spec material in a continuous pharmaceutical pilot plant

The judicious use of buffering capacity is important in the development of future continuous pharmaceutical manufacturing processes. The potential benefits are investigated of using optimal-averaging level control for tanks that have buffering capacity for a section of a continuous pharmaceutical pilot plant involving two crystallizers, a combined filtration and washing stage and a buffer tank. A closed-loop dynamic model is utilized to represent the experimental operation, with the relevant model parameters and initial conditions estimated from experimental data that contained a significant disturbance and a change in setpoint of a concentration control loop. The performance of conventional proportional-integral (PI) level controllers is compared with optimal-averaging level controllers. The aim is to reduce the production of off-spec material in a tubular reactor by minimizing the variations in the outlet flow rate of its upstream buffer tank. The results show a distinct difference in behavior, with the optimal-averaging level controllers strongly outperforming the PI controllers. In general, the results stress the importance of dynamic process modeling for the design of future continuous pharmaceutical processes.