What is Pilot Plant?
A pilot plant is a pre-commercial production system that employs new production technology or produces small volumes of new technology-based products, mainly for the purpose of learning about the new technology. The knowledge obtained is then used for design of full-scale production systems and commercial products, as well as for identification of further research objectives and support of investment decisions. Other (non-technical) purposes include gaining public support for new technologies and questioning government regulations.
Pilot plant is a relative term in the sense that pilot plants are typically smaller than full-scale production plants, but are built in a range of sizes. Also, as pilot plants are intended for learning, they typically are more flexible, possibly at the expense of economy.
Some pilot-plants are built in laboratories using stock lab equipment, while others require substantial engineering efforts, cost millions of dollars, and are custom-assembled and fabricated from process equipment, instrumentation and piping. They can also be used to train personnel for a full-scale plant. Pilot plants tend to be smaller compared to demonstration plants.