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christa.jpg (5628 bytes) Chemical Industry News Editor Christa Semko
Every two weeks, Christa will bring you the latest chemical industry news from around the world.  If you have a press release that you'd like to share with us, please mail it to us through our online contact form here.

Dateline: December 4, 2007

Technically Speaking

North America

Plant Shutdown

Ineos Nova plans to permanently shutdown its Belpre, Ohio polystyrene facility by January 31, 2008.  The site has a production capacity of 220 million pounds of crystal polystyrene/year.  The company expects the shutdown to have a minimal impact on its ability to deliver products to its customers and is planning to provide its customers with a transition plan in the coming months.  The shutdown removes approximately 12% of the company’s North American polystyrene production capacity.


Basell has signed a definitive agreement with Solvay by which Basell will acquire Solvay Engineered Polymers, Inc., a leading supplier of polypropylene compounds in North America.  The transaction, which is expected to close in early 2008, is subject to relevant regulatory approvals.


Texas Petrochemicals Inc. (TPI) plans to more than double its current production of polyisobutylene (PIB) by mid 2008 with the addition of a new manufacturing facility at its Houston, Texas plant site.  The plant is designed to produce both highly reactive PIB (HR-PIB) and conventional PIB.  Upon completion, the expansion will supplement the company’s existing production capacity of more than 65,000 metric tons/year, which has been de-bottlenecked during the past several years.


Celgene has agreed to acquire Boulder, Colorado-based Pharmion for $2.9 billion.  Pharmion is the firm’s first major acquisition and will bring Celgene several drugs and drug candidates, including Vidaza (approved in the U.S. for myelodysplastic syndromes – MDS) and a myeloma treatment that Pharmion is developing for Europe based on thalidomide licensed from Celgene.  The acquisition is expected to close by the second quarter of 2008.


Plant Expansion

Dow Chemical Company plans to expand its facilities in Correggio, Italy, making the site Dow’s global research and development center for polyurethane systems formulation and application technology.  The $20 million expansion is scheduled for completion in 2009, however is subject to appropriate government and regulatory approvals.

Coal to Methanol Plant

Synthesis Energy Systems, Inc. is performing feasibility studies and devising plans for the potential development of a coal-to-methanol gasification plant in China.  The plant would support the company’s facilities in China and address the region’s increased demand for clean petrochemical feedstocks.

Production Boost

BASF is raising its production capacity in Ludwigshafen, Germany for higher oxo alcohols by 80,000 metric tons to a total of 390,000 metric tons/year, which will be built up stepwise through the end of the first quarter of 2009.  The additional capacity will be mainly used for the manufacture of plasticizers, whose production capacity BASF plans to raise by 40,000 metric tons to 300,000 metric tons/year by the second quarter of 2008.  Plasticizers are added to materials like PVC to make them soft and elastic.

Petrochemical Complex

KazMunaiGas Exploration Production plans to build a $5 billion petrochemical complex in Kazakhstan as part of its diversification efforts.  Plans are in their final stages and the company hopes to build the complex with joint venture partners.  The facility is being designed to produce more than 1 million tons of ethylene, polyethylene and polypropylene.

New Plant

Merck & Co. plans to invest $280 million towards construction of a vaccine plant in Carlow Town, Ireland.  The plant will be the first stand-alone human vaccine facility in Ireland and is expected to be fully operational in 2011.  As part of its operations, Merck also plans to cooperate with Irish universities on biologics production. 

New Plant

Sanofi-Aventis plans to build an influenza vaccine plant in Shenzhen, China.  Construction is scheduled to begin in 2008, with the goal of producing seasonal influenza vaccines for the Chinese market by 2012.  The facility is being designed for easy expansion to keep pace with anticipated market growth.  In addition, it will be flexible enough to switch production for pandemic influenza vaccines.

Phosphate Acid Investment

Three Indonesian companies plan to invest $500 million in the construction of a phosphate acid factory in Morocco, Indonesia’s special envoy to the Middle East.  The three companies are PT Petrokimia Gresik, Medco Energi Corporation and Bosowa Group.  The investment will be made under a bilateral investment cooperation scheme where Indonesia will import semi-finished phosphate acid from Morocco, with the companies investing in the construction of an ammonia plant in Indonesia.  The country is also exploring the possibility of forging the same kind of investment cooperation with Egypt. 

Technically Speaking

What are the most common methods of attaching tubes to tubesheets in shell and tube heat exchangers?

There is one more popular method of joining a heat exchanger tube to its corresponding tubesheet. The methods are as follows:

1) Seal welding;
2) Mechanical rolling;
3) Brazing and sweating; and,
4) Packing, ferrules, or “O” rings.

By far the most-used method today in the processing industry is seal welding - used with carbon steel and stainless steel construction. Sometimes tubes are seal welded and then also rolled. Seal welding ensures that there will be no fluid leaks from one side of the exchanger to the other. In the past mechanical rolling was used more than it is today. Rolling has the advantage of replacing the tube and re-using the same tube sheet. Today there are machining techniques that allow the same thing when confronted with seal welded tubes.

Brazing and sweating fall into the same category in that no electric arc welding is used; rather, an oxy-acetylene torch is used to administer a bronze weld or a lead/silver amalgam solder at relatively lower temperatures to the tube edges and seal them that way. This technique requires that the tube sheet be made of a material that will take the brazing or solder such as copper or brass/bronze. Brazing and sweating methods require that the ultimate process temperature be below that where the bronze/lead seal may fail. That’s why this method is used in processes close to ambient temperature or in the cryogenic zone. Lead/silver soldering is used a lot in cryogenic processes. The softer metals, like silver, lead, and copper actually increase their tensile strength at lower temperatures.

Packing and ferrules are used in heat exchangers that operate at relatively very low pressures and where the possibility of leakage does not present a hazard.

Art Montemayor via Forums

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