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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: April 3, 2007

Technically Speaking

North America

Refinery inspections
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans to respond later to criticism of its refinery safety procedures made by the federal Chemical Safety Board.  However, it is taking steps to ensure that all refineries are inspected.
Airgas has acquired the U.S. packaged gas business of Linde for $310 million.  The acquisition includes branches, warehouses, packaged gas fill plants and other operations part of distributing packaged industrial and specialty gases and related equipment.  With 130 locations in 18 states with more than 1,400 employees, the business generated $346 million in revenues and $36 million in EBITDA in 2006.  Approximately 50% of the revenues were from gas sales and cylinder rent, with the remainder from sales of welding equipment and supplies.  Airgas plans to sell 17 of the acquired packaged gas facilities to National Welders Supply Company at the close of the acquisition.
School safety
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has signed an agreement with the American Chemistry Council (ACC) to promote the safe management of chemicals in schools.  The move is in response to the need for safe handling of chemicals following a number of incidents involving their mismanagement in schools.  The agreement brings together the ACC’s Responsible Care initiative and the EPA’s Schools Chemical Cleanout Campaign.
New plant
Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP will build a 22 million pound/year polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) plant in Borger, Texas.  The new plant will be built next to the company’s existing PPS plant in Borger, expanding the company’s total PPS capacity at the site to approximately 44 million pounds/year.  The plants will share some infrastructure and operations.  Construction is expected to be completed in early 2009.  Much of the PPS polymer produced here is and will be sent to Chevron Phillips Chemical’s compounding facilities in LaPorte, Texas, Kallo, Belgium and Tuas, Singapore where it is then compounded with glass fibers and minerals to develop resins with unique performance features.


New European headquarters
Songwon Industrial Co., a South Korean specialty chemical producer, has opened a European headquarter for its affiliate Songwon International in Frauenfeld, Switzerland.   Songwon is aiming to become a strategic partner to customers by positioning itself to supply across the broad range of their polymer stabilizer requirements.
Clean-up Speed-up
A task force has recommended that toxic chemical waste and sludge from in and around the former Union Carbide India plant in Bhopal should be sent for immediate incineration.  The plant was the site of a major leak in 1984.  The task force, set up last year by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, was to look into complaints about waste not being dealt with appropriately.  Around 350 tons of various toxic wastes have been identified for disposal at the incinerator at Ankleshwar, Gujarat, with 40 tons of sludge to be sent to a disposal facility at Pithampur near Indore.
Hunger Strike
Nine workers at Indian Petrochemicals Corporation (IPCL) started a hunger strike in protest against a plan to relocate 1,200 staff from the Vadodara petrochemical complex.  IPCL wanted to transfer non-technical and unskilled workers from Vadodara to a three-year project at Jamnagar.  Unions said they would consider the relocation only if it was on a rotational basis and if accommodation and financial support for families were provided.
Indonesia and Brazil have signed a biofuel agreement that will help Indonesia to diversify into ethanol production.  Indonesia will receive technological and scientific help from Brazil.  Even though it is a member of OPEC, Indonesia is looking to reduce its dependency on oil.  Its oil production has declined, and the population has felt pressure from rising fuel costs.  Approximately 50% of the country’s population is poverty stricken.  By pushing toward biofuel, the hope is that the agricultural sector will be boosted and energy security will be gained.   Indonesia hopes to make ethanol from sugarcane and cassava and plans to invest $12.4 billion into the biofuels industry during the next three years.  Approximately 5.4 million acres have been set aside for the crops, $1.42 billion has been set aside to subsidize local farmers, 67 projects for the production of liquid biofuels have already been signed and 114 biomass power plants are under construction. 
LNG boost
Qatar Petroleum and ExxonMobil completed work on one of the world’s largest liquid natural gas (LNG) plants in Doha last week.  Known as RasGas Train 5, it will produce 4.7 million tons/year of LNG to supply gas to northern Europe.  The project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.

Chemical bill
A toxic chemical bill to increase the protection of the environment and human health is being considered in Vietnam as part of the government’s plan to stop dangerous substances from being imported.  The government is concerned that a rapid increase in demand for chemicals as a result of industrialization could lead to greater accidents. 
Indian company Dorf Ketal will expand into the Middle East by opening an office in Bahrain and setting up a blending plant in the Gulf region.  The expansion is in response to the rapid economic growth of the region and the increasing growth potential in the chemicals market.
CO2 allowances
The European Commission has accepted three more national allocation plans (NAPs) for greenhouse gas emissions in the second phase of the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) that runs from 2008 – 2012.  Allowances for the Czech Republic and Poland have been cut by 14.8% and 26.7% respectively.  France’s allowance was reduced to 132.8 million tons from their requested 155.6 million tons.
Product development center
BASF is building a product development center in Malaysia to service its Asia-Pacific engineering plastics customers.  The center will be built next to BASF’s engineering plastics compounding plant in Pasir Gudang.  The facility will focus on developing innovative products tailored to the market’s requirements.

Biofuels blends boost
Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy will begin a study next year to determine whether biodiesel blends could exceed current limits.  The proposed $2.28 million investigation would cover fuel mixture properties, stability, emissions and durability.  Biodiesel from fatty acid methyl ester derived from rapeseed, palm oil and soybeans will be tested in addition to vegetable oils and biomass.  The study is aimed at determining if biodiesel blends of more than 5% are viable.
Oil and gas field
The Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. (Japex) and Mitsubishi Corp. will invest $400 million to boost production of the Kangean oil and gas field in East Java now that they own 50% of the block.  The two companies bought the stake for $360 million from PT Energi Mega Persada (EMP), with the holding being split evenly between them.  EMP holds the remaining equity in the block.  Japex and Mitsubishi believe the new investment will boost the block’s production to 60,000 barrels of oil/day within three years from around 10,000 barrels of oil/day currently.       

Technically Speaking

What is the difference between a dessicant dryer and a refrigeration dryer?

"Adsorption dryers are one type within the generic class of 'desiccants'. Adsorption is unique and very effective because it uses the effect of van der Waal forces to capture and retain selective molecules on the surface of an adsorbent (usually activated carbon, silica gel, activated Alumina, and Molecular Sieves). When the retained molecules (sorbate) are water, the operation is one of drying the parent fluid. This adsorption unit operation can be done in the liquid or gaseous phase. Drying is usually done on gaseous phase. It is very important to note the difference between ADsorption and ABsorption. The two are entirely different unit operations and are designed differently.

Refrigeration “dryers” merely cool a compressed, humid gas phase and subsequently separate the liquid condensate from the gas, leaving a water-saturated gas at the operating pressure & temperature of the cooler. On subsequent pressure reduction and gas heat up, the relative saturation is reduced. It is obvious that you cannot obtain an actual, presurized dew point at a temperature lower than approximately 35 °F; otherwise the unit would freeze up with water ice.

Please take careful note of the following: To judge the absolute differences between both unit operations you should measure the amount of minimum water content that each process can accomplish at the same, process pressure. And the absolute measurement should be in PPM (mass) not in dew point or PPM (volume). The reason for this is that if you have a critical service the dried gas is going into, you want a definite mass measurement of the quantity of water you are introducing into the system.

In these regards, the adsorption dryer has all other types of dryers beat – and beaten to a pulp! The refrigeration dryer or deliquescent-type lab dryers (like CaCl2) can’t come close to the product quality levels that the adsorption dryer can achieve with ease and simplicity: product gas with less than 1.0 PPM (mass).

Adsorption dryers come in two generic types: TSA (Temperature Swing Adsorbers) where heat is used to reactivate the spent bed, and PSA (Pressure Swing Adsorbers) where pressure is use to reactivate the spent bed. PSA has a process fit in some unique applications, but generally cannot be justified where there is no useful application for the reactivation gas stream. TSA is the process of choice if you want good, clean, ultra-dry compressed air for critical services and instruments.

Refrigeration dryers require a much larger pressure drop through their system than do TSA, fixed bed adsorption dryers. This is common knowledge because of the many mechanical constraints imposed on the mechanical type. I design TSA adsorption dryers to operate with 20-25 ft/min of superficial velocity and only have a pressure drop of 0.5 psi (maximum) across the entire unit – something a refrigeration type can’t do.

Art Montemayor via Forums

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