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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: March 20, 2007

Technically Speaking

North America

Infrastructure Investment
Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (KMP) is investing up to $100 million to expand its terminal facilities to help serve the growing biodiesel market.  The company has entered into long-term agreements with Green Earth Fuels to build up to 1.3m bbls of tankage that will handle approximately 8m barrels of biodiesel production at KMP’s terminals on the Houston Ship Channel, the Port of New Orleans and in New York Harbor.

Fault Determined
The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) faulted Formosa Plastics and Borden Chemical for a 2004 accident at a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plant in Illiopolis, Illinois that killed five workers.  The CSB said Formosa and Borden did not adequately plan for consequences of human error.  Formosa bought the plant from Borden in 2002.

U.S. First
The first U.S. power plant run entirely on biodiesel began operations in Oak Ridge North, Texas and will be followed by a second generator in August.  Biofuels Power’s plant about twenty miles north of Houston is producing and selling electricity into the power grid from its biodiesel-powered generating plant.  Both generating units will use B100-grade biodiesel.  Feedstock can be soy oil, but cottonseed oil and animal fats could be alternative feedstocks.

Safety Improvements
Dow Chemical and Union Pacific Railroad are developing a new tank car design for highly hazardous chemicals by 2017.  In addition, the companies are envisioning reducing shipments of highly hazardous chemicals by 2015.  The companies agreed to improve the surveillance of chemical shipments by installing global positioning satellite units on all highly hazardous chemical tank cars and eliminate all non-accidental chemical releases by 2010.  By 2015, they will seek to reduce the dwell time of highly hazardous chemical shipments in transit in certain urban areas by 50% as well as aim to achieve a 50% improvement in hazardous materials rail operations safety and accident prevention.

A rail accident in British Columbia led to the leakage of hydrochloric acid from one railcar.  The leak was fully contained according to Canadian Pacific Railway (CP).  The accident happened when eight railcars, two carrying chemicals, went off the track near Golden, British Columbia.  The second chemical railcar, carrying sodium hydroxide, did not leak.

New Jobs
DuPont plans to add 400 jobs by the end of the year to its Pioneer seeds business in order to help speed up the development and marketing of its new seed products.  Most of the jobs will be in research and development.  The jobs are part of a $100 million investment plan driven by strong demand for agricultural crops, particularly from the booming U.S. biofuels market.

The U.S. Department of Energy plans to spend $385 million to help fund six bio-refineries in support of cost-effective production of cellulosic ethanol.  This funding makes up about 40% of the total $1.2 billion that will be invested during the next four years, with the six ethanol production firms providing the $815 million balance.  When fully operational, the six facilities will produce more than 130 million gallons/year of cellulosic ethanol.  Cellulosic ethanol can be produced from a number of inedible agricultural products, including corn stover, wheat chaff, switchgrass and wood chips.

As a result of continuing expansion and growth, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico, Hydratight has moved its Houston operations to new, larger premises in Deer Park in the Southeast Houston, Texas area.  Shortly, the company’s pipe cutting and machining rental services will also operate from the new facility.


New Projects
Methanex is considering a di-methyl ether (DME) project in
Egypt to be built alongside its planned 1.3 million ton/year methanol project there.  In addition, the company has signed a memorandum of understanding with GeoPark Holdings providing for the long-term supply, development and acquisition of new natural gas reserves in Chile, including a 10-year gas supply and purchase commitment from GeoPark’s Fell Block in southern Chile, beginning in May.  The agreement includes incentives for volume growth up to 100 million cubic feet/day of natural gas and includes provisions for the financing of development operations and the potential joint acquisition of new hydrocarbon blocks in Chile

Mitsubishi Chemical shutdown its 35,000 ton/year melamine plant in Kashima, Japan because of margin erosion.  Increased competition from China as well as poor market conditions have caused a number of Japanese and Korean manufacturers to exit the market in the last few months.

Capacity Increase
BASF is adding 10,000 tons of annual capacity for neopentylglycol to its Ludwigshafen, Germany site.  With this addition, the plant’s total capacity will be 155,000 tons/year by the end of 2007.  The capacity increase is driven by rising demand for the chemical intermediate mainly used in coatings.

Output Increase
Abu Dhabi National Oil Corp. (ADNOC) plans to invest $7 billion by 2009 to boost its production of natural gas liquids.  ADNOC, the dominant producer of natural gas liquids in the United Arab Emirates, will raise production to 10.5 million tons/year in 2009 from 6 million tons/year.

Capacity Increase
ExxonMobil will increase its chemical capacity in Asia and the Middle East by approximately 60% in the next few years.  Projects are scheduled for Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Singapore and Fujian, China, where an integrated refining and chemical complex is planned.  Steam crackers are planned for all the new facilities.

Gas Pipeline
India’s Reliance Group plans to lay 690 miles of gas pipeline in the eastern part of India, which will be a huge benefit for the region’s petrochemical industry.  The pipeline will start at Reliance’s upcoming onshore gas treatment plant near Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh and at its proposed onshore gas treatment plant to be set up near Bassudebpur in Orissa.  The project will be commissioned within three years.

Technically Speaking

I need to protect a vertical knock out drum against freezing with a minimum ambient temperature of 14 °F (-10 °C).  What would be a good method?

Steam Option:

"I've done this several times in Chemical processing plants and the results turned out very well each time. What I've done is the following:

1. Strip the vertical drum of any insulation and clean the drum of all surface paint and rust;

2. Obtain and apply a mortar-like paste called "Thermite" ( a special, heat-transfer cement made by a company in San Antonio, TX) and on top of the mortar wind a 1/2" copper tube in a spiral coil - starting at the bottom cylindrical seam and stopping at the top horizontal seam. The coil should be tightly wound and tight so that the contact between the drum's surface, the mortar and the coil will be as close as is possible. You will be depending on CONDUCTION as the primary heat transfer, so you want the surfaces to be intimate.

3. When the mortar sets, you can insulate the results. Introduce low pressure (waste) steam at the top of the coil and put a small, thermostatic steam trap at the bottom exit. You can control the steam flow automatically or manually. The drum will be heated and winterized.

If you ever maintain a low level in the drum (below the lower cylindrical seam, then you should also put a coil on the bottom head. This coil would be a flat, pancake shape formed around the head such that the top inlet is just below the lower cylindrical seam and the outlet is near the center, bottom of the head. Again, introduce steam at the top and put a steam trap at the bottom. Insulate the results and be sure to vapor seal.

I hope this helps you out. You can find the Thermite cement source by asking for it in the industry or searching on the Google database engine. Go to: and click on "Catalog". You can download a lot of useful information on heat tracing."

Art Montemayor via Forums

Electric Option:

"Electric heat tracing is another option that is worth looking at. It runs at minimal temperatures. I can safely put my hand on it and it feels only moderately warm. If you are a long distance from a suitable heat source it may be an easier installation. It can use a surprising amount of electricity (depending on how much tracing you require), so it is worth getting an electrical person involved to estimate the requirements. You will want to consider how this will impact your electrical bill and utility supply. However, the advantage is that it can be easily controlled by automatic temperature controls, so you don't need to run it when the temperature is above freezing.

You should also heat trace the liquid line out of the vessel, particularly if flow is intermittant. Same options on tracing medium apply as above. However, another option that can be used is a utilidor. This is an insulated box that contains your piping. you also run other piping that is hot (waste heat source) in the utilidor to keep it warm. Of course, this requires that you have such piping in the immediate area."

Shaun Hill via Forums

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