INFORMALLY SPEAKING											 spring/summer 2012A formaldehyde magazine from FormoxA formaldehyde magazine from FormoxFor...
2Re-energizedor revitalized– one or the otherA few weeks ago, the Formox annual conference took place.This year the venue ...
3The reason for doing this was that the differentmarket sectors had different drivers; factors in-fluencing one sector did...
4| Special featureThat first seminar was in the autumn; now it isa spring event, with weather to match – butfortu­nately t...
5tomer service and customer service. This is a keyaspect of the Formox business model and Marieinvited the group to partic...
6| Special featurePhil’s conclusion that formaldehyde was unlike-ly to win the political debate. Formacare was al-ready lo...
7Special feature |that all new Formox plants designs would usethis design, a “start up” layer of PPd-47 to initi-ate the r...
8| Special featureDAY 2The group was split into two for the second dayand transported (more logistics!) to Perstorp tocont...
9Catalyst news |Formaldehyde Europe 2012.
10| Special featureEGGER, Formox & MANThe concept Andreas introduced in 2006 wasthe possibility of integrating turbocharge...
11Special feature |tion. The standard for automotive diesel en-gines has changed. So perhaps we’re looking atthe new stand...
12| DownstreamMDI– a key link between polyurethanes & formaldehydeIn the last issue of informally speaking we took a speci...
13Catalyst news |Last year we launched our CAP 2.0T concept in San Francisco and this year, just as plannedand hoped, we w...
14Making technicalsupport even better!BackgroundSoon after Formox started with licensing and catalyst manufacture werealiz...
15Special feature |Testing fans– a vital step in the delivery of a plantFormox works with a number of highlyregarded fan m...
16| Catalyst newsProblems with high ECStemperatures?Formox has the solution for you!In recent years, Formox has put a huge...
17MoThe price of molybdenum (Mo) has been very stable since the previousedition of informally speaking. At the end of last...
18| Process & plant newsIn summaryAs you can see, formic acid can be formed in more than one unit and bymore than one reac...
19Training & project news |new projects & start upsTraining & project newsNew projectsÆ	 An agreement has been signed for ...
20new......& leftThe newsletter informally speaking aims to provide information aboutformaldehyde in an informal forum and...
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looking for like mindwd people to improve further by technology transfer in formaldehyde production page 10-11 of this news letter. your valuable comment and advice are welcome.

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  1. 1. INFORMALLY SPEAKING spring/summer 2012A formaldehyde magazine from FormoxA formaldehyde magazine from FormoxFormaldehydeEurope 2012– a summary page 4-9Formox conceptpage 13MDI– a key link between polyurethanes& formaldehydepage 12News! The world’s first turbo­charged formaldehyde plantpage 10-11
  2. 2. 2Re-energizedor revitalized– one or the otherA few weeks ago, the Formox annual conference took place.This year the venue was Europe, and a record number of del-egates from some 35 companies and 22 different countries metin Helsingborg and Perstorp to network and discuss formalde-hyde technology. To me this annual event is highly important;it’s a good opportunity not only to present Formox, but also tomeet face to face with people at the front line of the formalde-hyde business. But it is more than simply an opportunity tomeet old friends and exchange information; it revitalizes andre-energizes the whole Formox team.And energy, together with productivity improvements, was theconference theme – be it with developments such as the turbo-charger, new catalysts and loading plans or simply improved plantavailability. Operational excellence was at the heart of many ofthe presentations and some of the available techniques and toolswere the subject of “hands-on” demonstrations outside the con-ference room during the breaks as well as during the plant tourin Perstorp.All-in-all the spirit at this conference was very good and the pre-vailing atmosphere was one of optimism. And, as last year in SanFrancisco, Bob Crichton assured us that the future for formalde-hyde does indeed look bright, despite the challenges in thelegislative landscape well presented by Formacare. But for moreinformation on the conference, please read the summary onp. 4-9. For those interested in meeting us again soon, please markyour calendars for the Asia conference, which will take place inMarch next year.Energy was not only a theme at the conference, it is also one ofthe themes in this issue of informally speaking; we are very proudto have commissioned, started and proven at full operation thefirst turbocharger ever in a chemical plant! We now hope theturbo­charger will be an attractive option for most of our newplant customers; it is now available both for single and twin-stream plants and offers substantial power savings. Please readmore on p. 10-11.As already mentioned, the prevailing atmosphere at the seminarwas one of optimism, despite the ongoing Eurozone crisis. Certain-ly we are optimistic as already this year we have contracted to sup-ply 1 m MTPA of new capacity (see p. 19); last year’s record(2 m MTPA) might even be broken! This has certainly revitalizedus; we are re-energized to do our very best, not only to deliver thisnew capacity, but also in working with you – all our existingand soon-to-become customers. Our aim, as always, is to assistyou to further improve process performance and succeed in thesechallenging times.Finally I hope all of you find ways ofboosting your energy levels and I wish allof you a good read and an enjoyablesummer!Marie GrönborgGeneral ManagerFormox ABcontentSpecial featuresFormaldehyde Europe 2012 – a summary 4-9EGGER, Formox & MAN make history withworld’s first ”turbocharged” plant 10-11Testing fans – a vital step in the delivery of a plant 15Catalyst newsFormox CAP concept 13Problems with high ECS temperatures 16Process & plant newsCheck tube diameters 17Formic acid & ants 18Training & project newsTraining 19Projects & start-ups 19Market updatesFormaldehyde demand to 2020 & beyond 3Mo update 17DownstreamMDI – a link between polyurethanes & formaldehyde 12Technical supportMaking technical support even better! 14Other newsPersonnel changes 20Formaldehyde Asia 2013Mark your calendars for March of next year and make plans to spenda few days in Asia, probably Thailand. We will most likely continuealong the track of one day of market updates and Formox news,followed by one day split between in-depth technical discussions anda more general agenda explaining the Formox offer. More detailsabout the location and agenda will be published on andin the next issue of informally speaking later this autumn. Should youneed more information beforehand, please contact your Formoxrepresentative.
  3. 3. 3The reason for doing this was that the differentmarket sectors had different drivers; factors in-fluencing one sector did not necessarily impacton the other. This remains as true today as it didthen. Indeed there is much that is the same;then, as now, we were coming out of recession.But back then the message was that the futurewould be bright; indeed the penultimate slidein the presentation all those years ago (Fig 1)said as much; but we will come back to that later.So did the future turn out to the bright? Wellafter stagnating at just less than 16 m MTPA formuch of the 90s, the 1994 projection envisagedformaldehyde consumption rising to 20 m bythe year 2000. In fact it reached 24 m (Fig 2) –and a tendency to underestimate was a featureof many of the projections made on these pagesover the years. This far at least the future hasturned out to be brighter than we thought! Sowhat do we think now? And what do we expectto happen in the longer term?By the end of 2011, installed capacity had in-creased to 59 million MTPA; by far the largestcapacity growth was in Asia and this continentis now home to 55% of world capacity, most ofwhich is in China (44% of world capacity).Consumption in 2011 (Fig 2) is thought to havebeen in the 41 to 42 m MTPA range – slightlyup on 2010. The regional split is shown in Fig 3;Asia has by far the largest share – 49% and in-deed China has 36% on its own.Over the next ten years or so the factors drivingformaldehyde are likely to be much the same asover the last ten; and in those regions currentlydriving demand, growth in GDP/capita is thekey factor. Beyond 2020 it is a different story;history teaches that fast developing economieseventually mature. And to go back to Fig 1, per-haps today’s fast growing chemicals, MDI, POMand Butanediol will become the PF and UF ofthe past – stabilized and in a niche! Perhaps the“new chemicals” will be formaldehyde free! Thelast point in that slide is also valid “Wood Pro­ducts are entering a new phase”; they did withlaminate flooring in particular boosting demandover the last 20 years. But products, like econo-Formaldehyde demandmies, mature and with no replacement in sightit is not impossible that growth in formaldehydedemand will slow sometime between 2020 and2030. So, as in last spring’s article, caution iscalled for and the effect of two widely differentscenarios is shown in Fig 4. The top line, theoptimistic forecast, is “business as usual”, a con­tinuation of global economic growth, continuedgrowth in the chemical sector and further pene­tration by wood panels in global markets. Thelower or pessimistic forecast, assumes woodpanel penetration rates will slow as equilibriumis reached and products like laminate flooringmature; lower economic growth rates are alsofactored into this forecast. As you might expect,the different scenarios lead to widely differentconclusions.The preferred forecast (Fig 5), perhaps reflectingthe past tendency to underestimate, errs on theoptimistic side. But whatever happens the mar-ket will increasingly move east. Around 62% ofthe 20 m MTPA or so of additional demandprojected for the next ten years will arise in Chi-na. By the mid 20s China will be consumingaround 50% of world demand, compared with35% today.Given that the current installed capacity is over59 m MTPA you would think no new plantswould be built for some time. But, of course,formaldehyde is very much a local product; itdepends on the local supply and demand situa-tion. And historically the global utilization fac-tor has been, as now, in or around 75%. But tofinish as we started, the future is still bright.Though whether it will be as bright as it wasfollow­ing that first seminar in 1994 remains tobe seen.Market update |Figure 1: Overhead from the 1994 Seminar.As you will have seen elsewhere in this issue, Formaldehyde Europe 2012 took place in May.The inaugural event, in 1994, was the first public presentation of my now customary tech-nique of categorizing formaldehyde applications as either wood, plastics (now more broadlytermed “chemicals”) or others.Bob CrichtonFormaldehyde SpecialistR.S Crichton & AssociatesBYto 2020 & beyondThe future is brightTraditional plastics have stabilized and foundmarket nichesThe new plastics are and will continue to benefitfrom substitution growthWood products are entering a new phaseFigure 2: Formaldehyde Consumption (37% Basis) 2000-2010.Figure 3: Distribution of consumption by region.Figure 4: Forecasts; Optimistic or pessimistic?Figure 5: Preferred forecast.0510152025303540452000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010MillionsMTPAOthersWoodChemical303540455055606570752010 2015 2020 2025 2030mMTPA37%OptimisticPessimistic010203040506070802000 2005 2010 2015 2020 2025 2030mMTPA37%Chemical Wood Others TotalGreater Europe32%North America13%Asia49%South America4%ROW2%
  4. 4. 4| Special featureThat first seminar was in the autumn; now it isa spring event, with weather to match – butfortu­nately there were enough hot topics aroundto keep the participants warm. Even the rainheld off (a rare event in Helsingborg at this timeof year), though it was never going to be wetenough to dampen the spirits of the 67 delegatesfrom 22 countries and 35 companies, the bestattended seminar ever. With such a large grouplogistics could have been an issue but credit tothe organizers, everything was very well planned.But as someone remarked, “I would expectnothing else; if you can ship Formox catalyst andplants around the world, this must be easy”.Formox & market updatesThe attendees were welcomed by Lars-OlleAndersson, his first public outing since his returnto Formox last year (and indeed his first Formoxseminar as these were not a regular feature of theFormox scene last time around). He was fol-lowed by Marie who gave us a rundown of thekey events in Formox and Perstorp since the lastconference. With record sales over the last 12months Formox had enjoyed yet another suc-cessful year with China very much to the fore.Her main message was customer service, cus-Seminar in HelsingborgFormaldehyde Europe 2012DAY 1After a “one off” visit to Malmö for the last Formaldehyde Europe, 2012 saw us back in Helsingborg,the venue for the very first Formox seminar in 1994. Since that time these seminars have become anannual event; last year it was Formaldehyde Americas 2011 and even now Formaldehyde Asia 2013is at the planning stage. And when Formaldehyde Europe next comes around (2015) the event willbe celebrating its 21st birthday!
  5. 5. 5tomer service and customer service. This is a keyaspect of the Formox business model and Marieinvited the group to participate in a debate onhow Formox should organise technical supportto meet the needs of its diverse (and ever grow-ing) client base. She also announced that thefurther development of this service had beenplaced in the capable hands of Lars Andersson.Then it was the turn of Mark Vassar from Mit-subishi Gas Chemicals (MGC), who gave a wideranging account of MGC’s activities before con-centrating on its many methanol productionand marketing ventures around the world. Hisdata reflected a recurring seminar theme – thesignificance of China; perhaps we should nothave been surprised that of the 17 m MT of newmethanol capacity he identified, no less than11 m were in China. Though formaldehyde wasstill methanol’s main outlet, fuel uses were ris-ing. However, Mark also speculated about an-other fuel – shale gas. With US gas prices fallingin response to increased availability there wasthe possibility of a resurgence of petrochemicalactivity on the US Gulf Coast; several moth-balled methanol facilities could be restarted.Bob Crichton then took the stage (and managedto stay on it; according to Bob he nearly fell offat that first seminar back in 1994). Bob’s basicmessage was that these were difficult times inwhich to make formaldehyde demand projec-tions. And he hedged his bets by presenting bothan optimistic forecast (more of the same) and apessimistic one based on lower growth overall,particularly in the run up to 2030. He confessedto being more optimistic than pessimistic. Butaccording to Bob he could afford to be optimis-tic as he would soon be retiring; nobody believedhim – about the retirement that is! But you canmake your own judgement on his projectionsby reading his article on Page 3 of this issue.Health, safety & environment... & politicsThis concluded the marketing section and wewere then on to the first formal session this, onHealth, Safety and the Environment (HS&E),was introduced by Ola Erlandsson. Given thefirst presentation by Phil Hope of Formacare,maybe this session should have been titled HSE&P as it was clear that politics play a very bigpart in the formaldehyde debate. And Phil is tobe congratulated for a concise and very intelli-gible presentation on the various political mach-inations. Though the recent Formacare spon-sored technical conference in Madrid providedmuch in the way of defensive arguments, it wasSpecial feature |– a summaryFormaldehyde Europe 2012. Group photo taken just before lunch – in order to get a less “stiff” groupphoto, everyone was asked to turn around which is why everyone may not be facing the camera.
  6. 6. 6| Special featurePhil’s conclusion that formaldehyde was unlike-ly to win the political debate. Formacare was al-ready looking into the Risk Management Op-tions (RMO). Ola in his presentation acceptedthat there would be more regulations surround-ing formaldehyde and said that Formox wouldbe ready, willing and able to respond to the chal-lenge. However, as with Bob, he was basically op-timistic as for the most part there is currently noeconomically viable alternative to formaldehyde.Phillipe Thevenin was next up with an updateon “Carbon Footprints” – a subject first raisedat the 2009 conference in Malmö. The incen-tive, at least in those areas of the world wherecarbon trading was established, was to reduceyour carbon footprint and hence accumulatecarbon credits to sell on the market. Accordingto Philippe, this was already happening; clientswere actively seeking low carbon products forthis very purpose. An anomaly noted by Phillipewas that methanol produced from glycerine hada larger footprint due to the higher energy re-quirements of the manufacturing process – allis not always as green as it seems. The messagewas clear – best possible yield, lowest possibleenergy – smallest carbon footprint.Ola’s last contribution to this session concerneda deflagration that occurred in one of the olderplants in Perstorp in 2009. The reason for thisdeflagration was obvious; a leak in the pre-vapo­rizer had caused para to form, this caught fireleading to a deflagration. The clue was a strongformaldehyde smell after the event. The onlyproblem with this explanation was that the pre-vaporizer was not leaking! The cause was even-tually traced to a leaking valve upstream of theabsorber. When the line was shut down, form-aldehyde liquid leaked back; it vaporized whenheat was applied and was deposited as para backupstream – same effect from a different cause.The very clear message was don’t jump to con-clusions and don’t trust automatic absorbervalves to be leak-tight – physically isolate the valveusing a blind plate. Ola assured us that this wouldnot happen on new plants – that particular sys-tem had been in operation for many years andhad been used as a test bed for new ideas.Catalyst newsAfter the HSE (and P) issues we got to the tech-nical meat of the seminar, introduced again byLars-Olle who made the very relevant point thatthe Formox he had rejoined was very differentfrom the one he had left all those years ago – theprocess was almost unrecognizable and the per-formance better than ever. And yet here he wasintroducing a couple of major developmentsthat would further enhance the process; the latestloading plan, CAP 3.0 incorporating a brandnew catalyst and the successful full scale trial ofthe turbocharger.Ronnie Ljungbäck was first up with CAP 3.0.By way of introduction he showed the develop-ment of the CAP concept from its beginningsin 2003 – the aims always being the same, toincrease pro­ductivity (defined as formaldehydeproduced per reactor tube) while reducing boththe back pressure and the rate at which it builtup. A bonus with CAP 2.0 was increased flexi-bility; the most recent, CAP 2.0T, offered moreof the same but with an increased yield. Thoughthese were all huge steps forward, Ronnie con-fessed that he had been disappointed that CAP2.0 had not delivered higher productivity; themethanol inlet was still limited to 10 vol%. Thiswas now about to change as Ronnie announcedthe development of a new catalyst which, whenincorporated into CAP 3.0 loading plans, wouldallow 11% or even higher. Although the presentCAP 3.0 cannot be used in all plants, since it re-quires certain reactor conditions, a large numberof plants will still be able to enjoy the advantag-es of it; higher productivity and/or lower operat-ing costs.Higher inlets mean more formaldehyde fromthe same equipment; but it also means morethroughput for the ECS and hence higher exittemperatures – in some cases approaching themaximum temperature for the material used.This was Robert Häggblad’s topic and he ex-plained that though mechanical solutions werepossible, e.g. change the material of constructionand/or use a fan to dilute and hence cool thegas, there was now a better option.This involvedusing a layer of PPd-47, a new palladium (Pd)catalyst developed by Formox and launched in2011, and a second layer using PPt-47 (a CAPfor the ECS!!). While Pd allows a lower ignitiontemperature, and hence allows a greater tem-perature rise, conversion can be an issue; thesecond Pt layer solves that problem. Robert saidFormaldehyde Europe 2012. Day two was divided into two groups, and this picture shows the group having more in-depth technical discussions at Persgården.
  7. 7. 7Special feature |that all new Formox plants designs would usethis design, a “start up” layer of PPd-47 to initi-ate the reaction at a lower temperature and a“mop up” layer of PPt-47 to complete the con-version. Even more importantly, this loadingplan could be used on existing plants to removea potential bottleneck.News! Turbocharged plantsPlant design was also the focus of the next pre-sentation by Andreas Magnusson. Having madethe first presentation regarding the turbocharg-er in 2006, it was appropriate that he shouldannounce the successful trial of the turbocharg-er on a new Formox plant supplied to in Roma-nia. The concept was now fully proven and hadreduced power consumption by 30% to around46 kWh/MT 37%. Moreover, as a pressuriza-tion blower was no longer required, no addi-tional power was required for pressurization. Asa result power consumption was now indepen-dent of the operating pressure; higher pressureoperation and higher productivity with no pow-er penalty! Andreas was at pains to point outthat though the turbocharger was a simpleenough concept, many thousands of man-hourshad gone into making it a reality on a Formoxplant. But the details of this were left to a laterpresentation (the turbocharger was a co-opera-tive development between MAN, Formox andEGGER). Instead Andreas concentrated the restof his presentation on how you could furtherreduce the power consumption by utilizing theconsiderable steam produced by Formox de-signs. He showed variations on two basic con-cepts – directly with a turbine drive for a re-­circulation blower or indirectly using electricityproduced on a turbine driven generator set.Though both schemes showed short payback,he stressed that much depended on local elec-tricity costs (and indeed regulations). And hecautioned that installations such as these wereonly really worth investigating if you only haveuse for low-pressure steam (for example, in an-other chemical process or for board production)or no use for the steam.Entropy on the agendaAnd then it was over to MAN to describe theturbocharger in more detail. Firstly Jan FelixSchwartz outlined the global MAN business be-fore showing where the Formox applicationfitted into the MAN range of turbochargers.Given that the main application was in ship en-gines, where reliability was a pre-requisite, hedid not anticipate problems in a typical Formoxplant installation. But he left the thermodynam-ics of that to his colleague Manuel Stork who,for the first time ever at a Formox conference,put entropy into the limelight! His purpose wasto explain how it was possible for the turbo-charger to work in an application such as For-mox where temperatures and pressures were verydifferent from those in a typical engine applica-tion. And he succeeded in this task, not onlydemonstrating the thermodynamic basis butshowing that the machine had performed at sitevery much as in the test lab – though clearly, asAndreas had remarked earlier, there had beenmany control issues to resolve.The day finished as it had begun with an em-phasis on technical service with Lars outliningpro­gress so far on further improving this impor-tant aspect of the Formox product. This is alsoa topic covered on page 14 in this issue.This concluded day 1 – time for R&R and a tripon two fishing boats out to the island of Ven inthe Öresund between Denmark and Sweden.This was the home ofTycho Brahe, probably themost famous observational astronomer of thesixteenth-century, although given the overcastsky some of us wondered how he managed toobserve anything! An entertaining trip illustrat-ed by some of the more colorful aspects ofTycho Brahe’s life and death and after an excel-lent dinner and appropriate refreshments, thetrip back was even livelier than the trip out.Groups split in twoFormaldehyde Europe 2012. Everyone was given a tour of site Perstorp and the formaldehyde plant.
  8. 8. 8| Special featureDAY 2The group was split into two for the second dayand transported (more logistics!) to Perstorp tocontinue the learning process. Existing customershad a talk by Eva Walter on the techniques beingused within the Perstorp Group to improve plantavailability. It was shown that relatively simplechanges could greatly reduce downtime. Thegroup then moved to the plant proper (via a sitetour) for a series of practical demonstrations andposter presentations on a range of techniques.There was a sting in the lunch tail with a presen-tation by Neil Cruise on formic acid – a previewof work presently underway to try and under-stand how and where formic acid was produced.Johan’s theme for the penultimate presentationof the conference proper was CCC, complete,clear and correct. In simple terms, make key de-cisions based on analytical facts rather thansimply impressions. If a result looked wrong itprobably was wrong; check and corroborate (the“5c” approach?). The day concluded with twoworkshops, a session on what customers thoughta formaldehyde plant would look like in 2030and another on technical support – how tofurther improve the customer experience. Bothsessions went well and the mediators, Ola andLars, reported that many helpful suggestions weremade.The second group also enjoyed a guided tour ofthe Perstorp site and the Formox R&D centerbut the day was spent learning in more detailabout Formox, the plant range, the catalysts aswell as that all important technical support.Theyalso saw how a typical project was handled andshared the experiences of a Chinese companyabout to install its third plant in the same site –one of many truly satisfied customers.Marie ended the seminar proper (there was a thirdday of advanced training for some attendees) bythanking everyone for taking the time to comealong. She also congratulated the presenters, bothhome grown and international and extended awell earned vote of thanks to the organizers.There had been a wide range of topics and Mariehoped that there had been something for every-one. She drew attention to two items in particu-lar, the turbo charger – lower power consumptionover the entire pressure range – and CAP 3.0,higher productivity, lower pressure drop – andhence even lower power consumption! But asMarie said, the really big story is yet to be told –the one about a new range of plants encompass-ing all these new developments. A turbochargedplant loaded with CAP 3.0 will not only consumemuch less power but will do so at much the samecost per MT of capacity. However, this was verymuch work in progress but she hoped Formoxwould be in a position to write the next chapterby the time of Formaldehyde Asia 2013.Formaldehyde Europe 2012. The practicaldemonstrations gave many opportunities fordiscussions.Formaldehyde Europe 2012.The practical demonstrationsshowed some tips for construct-ing simple, but useful equip-­ment to help plant operation.
  9. 9. 9Catalyst news |Formaldehyde Europe 2012.
  10. 10. 10| Special featureEGGER, Formox & MANThe concept Andreas introduced in 2006 wasthe possibility of integrating turbochargers informaldehyde plants. Martin Steinhagen, Tech-nical Director at EGGER Technologia SRL inRomania, remembers it well: “I was very in-spired by Andreas’ presentation and I was con-vinced that this was an idea we wanted to lookmore closely at.”Along with customers from five continents,Martin was on hand again at this year’s con­ference in Helsingborg. This time he listenedwhile Andreas described the successful collabo-ration between EGGER, Formox and MANDiesel & Turbo, a world-leading manufacturerof turbochargers, which has resulted in theworld’s first turbocharged formaldehyde plant.Reducing costs where possibleWith 17 production plants in seven Europeancountries, EGGER is among the continent’slargest manufacturers of wood-based products.And when it comes to producing formaldehyde,EGGER is basically in the same boat as anyother producer in terms of the cost picture.“Typically, over 90% of the production cost forformaldehyde is methanol,” says Martin Stein-hagen. “And as there is little we can do aboutthe price of methanol, we have to look at thenext biggest cost – energy – which makes upabout 5%.”To test the idea of reducing energy costs usinga turbocharger, EGGER agreed to a pilot pro­ject involving a new formaldehyde plant for itschemical production facility in Radauti, Roma-nia. The principle behind the solution was toreplace a conventional, power-consuming pres-surization blower with a turbocharger poweredby exhaust gas from the ECS (Emission ControlSystem) – see figure 1.Reliable technology a top priorityAs technology partner, Formox chose to workwith the Turbocharger Business Unit of MANDiesel & Turbo, based in Augsburg, Germany.“Our customers need to be able to trust the ro-bustness of any solution we recommend,” saysAndreas, “which is one reason why we choseMAN.”Manuel Stork, Application Expert at MAN, ex-plains that the technology is very reliable for thisapplication because it was originally designedfor far more demanding operating conditions.“Our turbochargers have been widely used formany years for the propulsion of heavy seagoingvessels,” he says. “The process gas at a formalde-hyde plant is very clean compared to the corro-sive exhaust from a diesel engine burning heavyfuel oil on a large tanker ship. And, in the form-aldehyde plant, the turbocharger runs at a verylow speed compared to on a ship, so there islittle stress. It’s like running your car engine onidle.”New focus for MANDr. Herbert Schmuttermair, Senior Manager Ap-plication at MAN, says that the company is nowexpanding its business by bringing its well-prov-en turbochargers to industrial applications. Pow-er plants and process industries are two areasMAN is focusing heavily on. Dr. Schmuttermairsays the installation at Radauti is a perfect ex-ample of how industrial processes can benefitfrom this technology.“Formox has worked hard over many years toreduce the power consumption of its plants by50% compared to the designs of 30 years ago,”he says. “Now, with a turbocharger, the con-sumption can be reduced by one third of today’slevels in a single step.”An evolutionary step?Jan Felix Schwartz, who works with Sales atMAN, compares this advancement to what hashappened in the auto industry over the past twodecades.“Twenty years ago a 2-liter diesel engine in a pas-senger car generated about 75 horsepower.Todayyou can have a 2-liter turbodiesel delivering morethan 200 horsepower with less fuel consump-At the 2006 Formaldehyde Europe conference Formox’s Andreas Magnusson presented anexciting new idea aimed at helping customers drastically cut energy costs. Six years later tothe day, Andreas stood on the podium once again enthusiastically explaining how the ideahas now become reality and can reduce power consumption by 30% or more.make history with world’s first ”turbocharged” plantThree key people at Formox whohave been crucial to the success ofthe turbocharger project are HenrikHansson, Michel Bellais and KristerForsman.
  11. 11. 11Special feature |tion. The standard for automotive diesel en-gines has changed. So perhaps we’re looking atthe new standard for formaldehyde plants ofthe future, including a turbocharger for in-creasing output and saving energy.”Thanks to the pilot project carried out atEGGER’s Radauti plant, Formox and MANhave gained valuable knowledge concerning thenecessary conditions for optimal operation ofthe turbocharger in a formaldehyde plant. Asa result of the lessons learned, Formox is nowable to offer the turbocharger for energy-savingat new plant installations.Nearly 3 million fewer kWh = fast paybackAsked about how the potential savings for a newplant, Andreas Magnusson explains that an FS3size plant operating at normal capacity can beexpected to cut energy consumption by as muchas 2.8 million kWh per year.“The exact savings to the customer will of coursevary depending on a number of things, es­pecially the cost of power at the site,” he says,“but there’s no question that the initial invest-ment pays off within a relatively short time.”Part of a bigger pictureMartin Steinhagen at EGGER believes that inaddition to a good ROI, there are also other sig-nificant benefits to consider. “And it’s also aboutenvironmental savings, he says. At EGGER wehave planned several steps to significantly reduceour good CO2 footprint until 2020, and theturbocharger is one of many other innovations,that help us to meet those goals.”Asked about how it compares to operating aconventional plant, Martin says, “No more dif-ficult than our other plants. With the firstchange of the catalyst, we will inspect the unittogether with MAN, but we don’t expect anyproblems. The turbocharger really makes sense,especially if you want to run your plant at max-imum capacity.”To find out more about possibly turbochargingyour plant, contact Andreas Magnusson You canalso visit if you wantto know more about MAN Diesel & Turbo.Example of a MAN Turbocharger. At the front, with housing dismantled, the turbine wheel with the adjustableinlet guide vanes (VTA).Pressurization ‘for free’– how the turbocharger worksTraditionally, oxide plants only recover thethermal energy – by means of the ECSsteam generator. The turbocharger nowadvances energy efficiency even further.How?Assume your plant is running at 0.5 barg absorber top pressure with 10 vol%inlet. Energy consumption is then ap-proximately 57 kWh/MT when the cata-lyst is fresh, and 65 kWh/ MT 37% afterhalf the catalyst lifetime. Under theseconditions the turbocharger will reducethe power usage by 19 kWh to 46 kWh/MT 37% at mid cycle – about 30% less.How the turbocharger is poweredThe turbocharger is driven using thepressure of the gas leaving the absorberplus the heat generated through the cata­lytic combustion in the ECS (EmissionControl System). Together these drive theturbine unit, which in turn directly drivesthe compressor. In addition, the VariableTurbine Area (VTA) feature enables effi-cient control of the compressor pressureoutput according to the plant’s needs.“As a result,” says Andreas Magnusson,“the cost of powering the turbochargeris limited to a 30-40 °C drop in the tem­p­er­­ature of the gas leaving the ECSreactor. This translates into a 3-4% re-duction in steam production, meaningpressurization is achieved more or lessfor free.”Figure 1. Replacing the pressurization blower with an energy-saving turbocharger.
  12. 12. 12| DownstreamMDI– a key link between polyurethanes & formaldehydeIn the last issue of informally speaking we took a special look at BDO, a downstream product that is a majorconsumer of formaldehyde. Like BDO, MDI is another downstream product expected to consume more andmore formaldehyde over the coming years. Here we take a brief look into MDI and its main uses.MDI is an isocyanate used in the production ofone of the most versatile families of chemicals– polyurethanes. Polyurethanes are more ‘poly-mer systems’ than individual chemical productssuch as PVC, for example. They are used to cre-ate widely varying products ranging from flex-ible and rigid foams, to non-foam applicationssuch as coatings, sealants, adhesives, elastomersand fibers.Polyurethanes are basically produced by reactingan aromatic isocyanate, generally either TDI(toluene diisocyanate) or MDI (methylene di-phenyl diisocyanate), with a polyol. The specif-ic isocyanate, polyol and additional additives tobe used are selected depending on the desiredproperties for the application.From mishap to successThe commercialization of polyurethanes is saidto have begun after a small incident back in1941 in which moisture accidentally came incontact with a diisocyanate. This caused the for-mation of pockets of carbon dioxide in the prod-uct. It would be another decade before the po-tential for foams made from polyurethane wouldstart to catch on.At one point it was believed that flexible foamsmade fromTDI-based polyurethane representedthe greatest potential for polyurethanes. But his-tory shows that MDI has played perhaps an evenmore significant role, partly due to the emer-gence of Spandex fibres in the 1960s.Complex, but flexible MDI productionMDI exists in various forms, crude, pure andpolymeric, but the most commonly used com-mercial grade is mixture of 4,4´– methylene­diphenyl diisocyanate and its isomers. Form­aldehyde is used in the synthesis of MDI byreacting with aniline to produce diphenylmeth-anediamine (MDA), which in turn is treatedwith phosgene to produce polymeric MDI.The actual production is rather complex, but italso enables manufacturers to modify and de-velop different grades to suit the specific require-ments or needs of the user or end application.Major producers, such as Bayer, BASF, Hunts-man, Yantai Wanhua and Dow, generally mod-ify MDI to create different products optimizedfor different applications.Rigid foams biggest application for MDIFoam is by far the largest application area forpolyurethanes, and therefore also MDI. MDIpolyurethanes can be used to make both rigidand flexible foam, but rigid foams represent thelargest application for MDI worldwide.Because rigid polyurethane foams provide goodthermal insulation, the construction and appli-ance industries are two major market drivers forMDI. These foams are very widely used in theproduction of modern refrigerators and freezers,as well as the construction of new buildingswhere energy savings is a growing concern.Responding to global needsPolyurethanes made from MDI are provinghelpful to many companies working to improvesustainability. By developing alternative pro­ducts that help to conserve energy, lower theconsumption of natural resources, improve safe-ty and manage water supplies, many manufac-turers are taking action to respond to the needsof an ever-increasing global population.One area where this is being seen more in moreis the design and construction of energy efficienthousing and other buildings in response to EUregulations on energy-neutral buildings for 2020.Cars interiors, rollerblades & adhesivesIn addition to applications for the constructionand appliances industries, top manufacturersprovide solutions aimed at many other commonuses for MDI-based polyurethanes. These ofteninclude applications closely related to comfort,leisure and more fuel-efficient cars.Examples from all the bigger producers includea diversity of applications ranging from high-tech jogging shoes, rollerblades, boats and deco-rative molding, to instrument panels and in­teriortrim in cars. Binders and industrial strength ad-hesives are other applications for which manu-facturers have created special MDI-based formu-lations.Tremendous growthMDI has experienced tremendous growth overthe past two decades. In fact, potential con-sumption of formaldehyde for the productionof MDI has virtually doubled every ten yearsduring that time, from just under 400,000MTPA 37% formaldehyde in 1990 to over900,000 MTPA in 2000, and just above2,000,000 MTPA in 2010. According to indus-try forecasts, this is a trend that is expected tocontinue even for the period from 2010-2020.The last decade most of the new capacity hasbeen added in Asia with China as the biggestrising star. Today about 40% of all MDI capac-ity is in Asia. Currently the global MDI produc-tion uses about 5.5% of the world’s productionof formaldehyde.Formox part of expansive trendNaturally, Formox is glad to be part of this ex-pansion. At Yantai Wanhua in China, which hasgreatly increased its MDI capacity since 2000,over 90% of the formaldehyde used for MDIproduction today comes from the Formox pro-cess. Formaldehyde based on Formox techno­logywill also be used as raw material for the MDI bothin the large investment by BASF in the Chongq-ing area in China, as well as in another huge in-vestment in Asia. Both these investments are ex-pected to start-up sometime in 2014.This is indeed a good verdict from the industryand encourages us to continue the developmentof our process for even better safety, higher re­liability and lowest possible cost of ownership.
  13. 13. 13Catalyst news |Last year we launched our CAP 2.0T concept in San Francisco and this year, just as plannedand hoped, we were able to launch our CAP 3.0 concept at our Formaldehyde Europeconference in Helsingborg in May.CAP 3.0 is yet another step along the path tohigher capacity and better performance in termsof lower direct variable cost (DVC). As you willfind out, this development is pushing the limitsfurther and we are very proud to announce thatwithin this development we also are launchinga new catalyst – the Formox KH-CAP 3.0 INICAT! And since all good things come in threes,we also introduced our new logotype for theCAP concept as seen in the headline.CAP 2.0T has taken us a step further on theperformance curve, but in terms of productivity(capacity per tube) we have not been able tomove forward with the CAP 2.0 concept. Luck-ily we are persistent and above all determined tofind a way to stretch the limits even further.With the CAP 3.0 concept and the new KH-CAP 3.0 INI CAT catalyst we are at last able toincrease productivity and achieve higher capac-ity. This comes about because we are now ableto operate CAP 3.0 at 11 vol% in methanol in-let – and even higher. Thanks to better controlof reaction rates, lower reaction temperaturesand better heat distribution, we also get even lesscatalyst ageing compared to CAP 2.0. So besidesthe above mentioned higher productivity, thepressure drop increase will be even slower.When CAP 3.0 is operated at 11 vol%, the yieldmay suffer somewhat (compared to CAP 2.0operated at 10 vol%), and here the system pres-sure plays an important role. Operating CAP3.0 at 11 vol% at atmospheric pressure, the yieldis expected to be marginally lower but at 0.5 barg the yield can be up to 0.5 % lower – againcompared to CAP 2.0 at 10 vol%. On theother hand, CAP 2.0 cannot or should not beoper­ated at 11 vol% anyhow, so it is somewhatdifficult to compare the two.However, you do not have to operate CAP 3.0at 11 vol% – if you choose to operate at 11vol%, then you get the highest possible capacity,but in the event you are limited by e.g. the plantdesign to a maximum of 10 vol%, then you willget the same yield as CAP 2.0 but gain theother CAP 3.0 benefits of a higher specific pro-duction and longer catalyst lifetime – and a bet-ter result overall. Also, due to the low initialpressure drop and slower build up, the averageFormoxpressure drop is expected to be 20% (!) lowerthan for a CAP 2.0 load. Thus, operating CAP3.0 at 10 vol% in methanol inlet could, for a300 MTPD plant, be converted into yearlypower savings of kEUR 50!So can any plant use our new KH-CAP 3.0 INICAT and the CAP 3.0 concept? Unfortunatelythis is not the case, at least not yet. At this stage,only plants with a sufficient tube length andcooling are suitable. For example, Formox re­actors which have tubes longer than 1400 mmcan use our CAP 3.0 concept; needless to say weare, of course, working on developing CAP 3.0loads for other reactors in order to widen therange of users. As always, it is important to havethe correct plant data, particularly regarding thereactor, when designing a CAP 3.0 load. PleaseRonnie LjungbäckProduct Manager CatalystsFormox ABBYcontact your Formox representative to discusswhether your plant is suitable or not.Furthermore, in case you will operate at highercapacities such as 10 vol% and 0.5 bar g or at11 vol% you need to make sure that your plantcan handle the higher capacity. You should alsomake sure that your ECS unit can handle thehigher load; more combustible compounds inthe tail gas means a higher ECS delta tempera-ture. We can possibly help you increase the op-erating window – please read Robert Häggblad’sarticle about our ECS catalysts.Since we have just launched the CAP 3.0 we donot yet have too much data from plants usingit, but you can rest assured that there will bemore details regarding full scale results for CAP3.0 (and indeed CAP 2.0T) in future issues.conceptWhat do the tubes in our logotype mean?CAP – Catalyst Activity Profile – is a concept we have been using at Formox since 2003. Tostrengthen our brand we have now chosen to trade mark CAP and to include a logotype. Thethree tubes in the logotype symbolize the development from the very first CAP (first tube) to CAP2.0 (second tube) and finally to the ideal CAP with an infinite number of layers. This alsoillustrates and symbolizes a continuous improvement in CAP performance.Summary of CAP 3.0 pros and cons*At 11 vol% methanol inletÆ Higher capacityÆ Higher specific steam productionÆ Lower specific electricity consumptionÆ Maintained specific productionÆ Slightly shorter catalyst timeÆ Slightly lower yield (up to 0.5%)Æ Higher ECS delta temperatureAt 10 vol% methanol inletÆ Longer catalyst lifetimeÆ Higher specific productionÆ Lower specific electricity consumptionÆ Maintained yield*compared to CAP 2.0
  14. 14. 14Making technicalsupport even better!BackgroundSoon after Formox started with licensing and catalyst manufacture werealized that we had to support our customers with our specializedknowledge. Now, over 50 years later, it is an integral and very importantpart of our business. The challenge has been to maintain personal con-tacts and be responsive to customer needs against a background of anexpanding plant and catalyst customer base – and ever growing productportfolio. But how can we achieve that?What is TS?This is not so easy to answer as Technical Support (TS) covers a broadrange of activities (see box). TS is also intangible. Why? Because it de-pends on the individual needs of the client, which in turn depend onmany different factors. The needs of an individual well served with inhouse specia­lists can be very different from those who, for whatever rea-son, have to be multi-tasking. Many other issues, for example, languagecan also come into play. As we see it, flexibility is the key, one size doesnot fit all; but organizing to achieve this is not easy.The organizationWe hear time and time again, and the recent seminar was no exception,that clients want more face to face time, more personal contact. Andthough we try hard to oblige (our seminars are a case in point), it canbe difficult. However, we make the effort to meet every client at leastonce a year. Also every customer has a single point of contact. This isthe role of the Account Managers (AM) and the Regional Sales Mana­gers (RSM). Currently we have seven people in this global group andall have a technical background, in most cases acquired in other partsof Formox. We have recently strengthened our support by adding moreresources in China, with a clearer focus on TS; other changes to furtherstrenghten the TS are also on the way. Our aim is that your Formoxrepresentative should be able to answer most questions; but if more spe-cialized knowledge is needed there will be a process engineer teamed upwith each AM/RSM’s; these “mini teams” will serve you as necessary.Bigger tasks require more resources in these cases we form a team andrun the task as a project. All requests, no matter how small, are moni-tored to ensure nothing falls by the wayside.What should it be?We don’t only want to maintain our already high support levels; we wantto make it better to give you even more added value. So we would likeyou to help us shape the future for our technical support. For example,in addition to telephone calls and e-mails, our on-line Customer Centeris available 24/7 to help you find answers to typical questions. But fromwhat we can see the site is not used as much as we expected. Why isthat? If you have any views on this or any other aspect of the TS func-tion, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Please take this opportuni-ty to let us know your ideas and suggestions. We can build the futuretogether!Lars AnderssonPlant & Catalyst Sales ManagerFormox ABBYFormox technical supportTrainingÆ Training courses On site – customized to your needs In Perstorp – basic and advanced refresher training courses in connection with all new plant projectsÆ Seminars Annual conference – Europe, Asia, NAFTAÆ Communications Regular updates – through informally speaking Customer Center on Formox webpage – information 24h/dayÆ Technical bulletins Newsflash about technical updates, regulations/legislations, analysis etc.Performance reviewÆ Optimization and trouble shooting Detailed operating instructions of the catalyst Fast support for trouble shooting Analytical service (catalyst, methanol, waters etc)Æ Plant Plant performance and safety audits Process updates Maintenance routinesÆ Technical information Process upgrades, equipment suggestions, spare parts, storage, utilities etc. General information for formaldehyde productionFeedbackÆ Technical meetings Follow up and review of plant and catalyst performance at site Process parameter measurements (flow, dP, gas analysis) Energy managementÆ Process data We give regular operating recommendations based on customer’s plant operating data This information, which is treated strictly confidential, enables us to give prompt recommendations for process adjustmentsÆ Load performance report Review of finished load and conclusions for future recommendations Customer survey| Technical support
  15. 15. 15Special feature |Testing fans– a vital step in the delivery of a plantFormox works with a number of highlyregarded fan manufacturers includingcompanies like Siemens and Finland-basedFläkt Woods. Because fans are of such vitalimportance to the process, Formox re-quires all of its fan suppliers to thorough-ly test the equipment before shipping it tothe destination site.This testing, generally known as a ‘Fac-tory Acceptance Test,’ or FAT test, is es-sential to ensuring that potential issues aredetected and dealt with before the fansever leave the factory. As a result, the FATtest helps to prevent any issues from pos-sibly developing into problems for cus-tomers later on.Simulating operation of a real plantFormox has been doing business withFläkt Woods for nearly 20 years, and FATtests have been a part of the picture from thevery start. Peter Lönnqvist, a project manager atthe manufacturer, explains what the process in-volves for his company.“We manufacture the fans, but we also supplythe motors and frequency inverters needed todrive them. Because we have everything here,we can connect all these components just like inthe final installation,” says Peter. “The only dif-ference is that we need to supply the power andattach vacuum pumps at the right places so thatwe can simulate operation in a real plant.”Measuring performanceEvery FAT test is performed in the presence ofa mechanical engineer and an electrical engineerfrom Formox. According to Peter, once every-thing is set up correctly the fans are put througha series of tests taking them from 0 rpms to max-imum operating speed. Advanced equipment isFans are extremely important to the Formox process. By simulating operation and testingthe fans at the manufacturer, potential problems can be avoided and the time it takes tostart up a new site is considerably shortened.used to take measurements at several agreed rpmlevels, or measurement points, and the resultsare compiled in a detailed test report signed byboth Fläkt Woods and Formox.Recent case illustrates importanceGert Svensson, a project manager at Formox,recently travelled to Finland together with oneof Formox’s customers to take part in a FAT test.“In this particular case there were several factorsthat differed somewhat from the norm,” saysGert. “And what we found through doing thefactory test was slightly higher than acceptablevibrations at one of the measurement points.”According to Gert, this example illustrates ex-actly why Formox insists on carrying out FATtests.“These vibrations may never have actually be-come a problem during the normal operation,”he says, “but by detecting them early FläktWoods was able to make the necessary adjust-ments and remove any uncertainty for us andespecially for our customer. It’s really about usbeing able to take full responsibility for the qual-ity of what we deliver.”Peter Lönnqvist agrees. “We have a very longand positive cooperation with Formox,” he says.“We know how important peace of mind is totheir customers, so that’s what we always striveto deliver.”Shorter start-upPeter says that in addition to the sense of se­curity that FAT testing provides, there is yet an-other very important advantage not to be over-looked.“By finding and correcting any issues at thefacto­ry, the installation at the site also goes muchsmoother and faster,” he says. “With the fans,motors and frequency inverters already testedand fine tuned before being shipped, the criticalschedule during commissioning can be kept”.A visit to test fans.Gert Svensson is inspecting fanswith one of Formox’s customersin Finland earlier this year.
  16. 16. 16| Catalyst newsProblems with high ECStemperatures?Formox has the solution for you!In recent years, Formox has put a huge amount of effort into finding in-novations that enable our customers to increase their production capac-ity. Although the outcome has been successful, one side effect has beenthat the energy flow to the Emission Control System (ECS) has increased,taking the exit temperatures close to, or above, the vessel’s maximumtemp­erature limit as determined by the construction material. Therefore,in order to be able to reach the full potential of your formaldehyde re­actor, it may be necessary for you to cool the ECS reactor.How do you cool an ECS reactor?There are a few options to consider. One is to add an extra blower to in-troduce dilution air at the ECS inlet. A second is to replace the existingECS with a vessel able to withstand higher temperatures. Both of theseoptions require investment in new equipment, which can make them un-attractive from an economical point of view.In our view, these should only be considered if you need to reduce thetemperature by more than 30°C. As long as the cooling demand is moder­ate, the solution recommended by Formox is to combine two types ofcatalysts with different characteristics, namely PPt-47 and PPd-47.A winning combinationPPt-47 is a well-known Formox product used for many years now toeffectively convert carbon monoxide (CO), dimethyl ether (DME),methanol and formaldehyde to carbon dioxide and water. A drawback ofthis catalyst, however, is that CO at low temperatures effectively blocksthe catalytically active component, platinum (Pt), which makes it almostinactive at temperatures below some 180°C.Therefore, to enable ignition at lower temperatures, it is necessary to usea low-temperature active catalyst. Our candidate for doing this is ourPPd-47 – a palladium (Pd) based total oxidation catalyst. By using thePPd-47 catalyst you will be able to operate your ECS with a significant-ly lower inlet temperature. However, though the ignition temperature islower, PPd-47 is less efficient than PPt-47 at higher temperatures –enough to make it difficult to achieve the required conversion – whenused alone. Therefore, the best option is to combine the two catalysts:Æ Use the low-temperature active PPd-47 as the “start-up” catalyst to enable a low inlet temperature to the ECS, andÆ Use the high-temperature active PPt-47 as a “clean-up” catalyst to guarantee a satisfactory degree of conversion.The resultsFigure 1 compares the CO ignition curve of a pilot-scale reactor loadedonly with PPt-47, to that of a reactor loaded with a relatively small amountof PPd-47 positioned above the PPt-47. This illustrates how combiningthe two catalysts can achieve a 30°C lower ignition temperature.So if you have limitations in the operation of an existing ECS unit thatis of Formox or similar design, Formox can offer a choice of solutions.Some alternatives require greater investment, but there is also a simplesolution using PPd-47 in combination with PPt-47.Figure 1. Conversion of CO as a function of the temperature in anatmosphere containing CO, DME, methanol, H2O, O2 and N2 for apure PPt-47 loaded reactor (solid line) and a reactor combined withPPd-47 and PPt-47, respectively.0102030405060708090100130 140 150 160 170 180 190 200 210ConversionofCO(%)Inlet temperature (ΣºC)A combination ofPPd -47 and PPt -47 PPt -47only~30 ΣºCRobert HäggbladR&D AssociateFormox ABBY
  17. 17. 17MoThe price of molybdenum (Mo) has been very stable since the previousedition of informally speaking. At the end of last year, the price hoveredaround 14 USD/lb and it has remained there ever since. According to an-alysts, the price is expected to stay at this level, or within 12-17 USD/lb,for quite a long time, although sudden increases in demand due to marketchanges could push the price over the USD 20/lb mark.While there is currently a good balance between supply and demand,changes in economical growth or legislation could shift the balance. InChina, for example, a resource tax has been placed on Mo which, togeth-er with high domestic production costs, could increase the imports of Moto China. Also, some countries have put bans on or made it more difficultto export valuable resources like Mo, which could also influence the bal-ance of supply and demand.The good growth seen in China, but also in India, for example, is expect-updateProcess & plant news |ed to continue. China is the main consumer and producer of both Moand stainless and steel alloys that contain Mo, and this will also have along-term influence on the price of Mo. For these reasons, the price is ex-pected to gradually increase and eventually reach above 20 USD/lb by theend of this decade.Regardless of the market changes, youcan rely on Formox to maintain rea-sonably stable net prices thanks toyour efforts to return spent catalystand thanks also to our efficient cata-lyst recycling system!By Ronnie LjungbäckProduct Manager CatalystsFormox ABCheck tube diameterThe loading profile you receive from your Formox representative is cal-culated for your reactor and optimized for the production rate of yourplant. So why does the calculated amount of catalyst not always matchthe real amount loaded in your reactor? Minor differences in the insidediameter (ID) of the tubes may be the reason!Take a Formox FS3 reactor for example. It has 17,400 tubes with a spec-ified ID of 21 mm. If the average tube ID instead is 21.5 mm, the amountof catalyst and ceramic rings loaded in the reactor will be several hundredkilograms more than calculated. As a result, the supplied material mightnot be sufficient to complete the load. If the average tube ID instead issmaller than specified, it will result in a load that would contain too littlecatalyst. Since the catalyst loading profile is optimized for the productionrate of your plant, a loaded amount that differs from specification willaffect the overall catalyst performance such as yield and catalyst lifetime.What to do?Understanding how the accuracy of the tube ID impacts catalyst loading,what should we do about it? The answer is simple – measure the reactortube ID!One example of tools you can use to measure the tube ID is a micro­metertogether with a caliper (Fig 1). It is important to make the measurementbelow the tube sheet to avoid being influenced by the tube weld and tubeend (Fig. 3). The tube end is slightly expanded and has a larger ID thanrest of the tube.A check of the average reactor tube ID can be done either during the man-ufacturing stage of the reactor or during the commissioning of new plants.For existing plants, the measurement can be performed during reloadingof the reactor.The reactor tubes should then be cleaned with a brush beforebeing measured.To obtain a representative average of the tube ID, the mea-surement should be repeated for at least 200 tubes at various sections acrossthe entire reactor. Please be careful as to not drop the measuring device inthe tube; put a string around it to not get any expected surprise.So, during your next reload, measure the tube ID and send the reactoraverage to your Formox representative. In this way, a catalyst loadingprofile optimized for your actual tube ID can be supplied and you willmaximize the performance of your next catalyst load.By Daniella ChengProcess EngineerFormox ABFigure 1. Example of tools for measuring of tube ID. Figure 2. Alternative to micrometer. Figure 3. Sketch of tube and tube sheet.CaliperMicrometer
  18. 18. 18| Process & plant newsIn summaryAs you can see, formic acid can be formed in more than one unit and bymore than one reaction. Luckily the side reactions that produce formic acidare not dominating and the amount of formic acid in the product is low.Formic acid in 37% formalin, for example, is typically 0.02 – 0.04% at thestart of a new catalyst load and usually 0.01 – 0.02% at the end of a cata­lyst run.We are looking into the best way to control/reduce this variation. Our sug-gestions will be given in subsequent issues of informally speaking. So watchthis space!Having a consistently low level of formic acid in your product is importantfor you and for us!Formic acid & ants?A small piece of trivia: In Swedish the word for ant is Myra and the Swedish word for formic acid is Myrsyra.The direct translation is Ant acid. Ants can defend themselves by injecting or spraying with chemicals, such asformic acid.Why is formic acid a problem in your formaldehyde?For resin producers a higher than normal amount of formic acid in theearly stages can cause a buffer effect to occur and can affect the post form-ing properties (scratch and temperature resistance) of the resin.For polyoxymethylene (POM) producers the formic acid accelerates thecationic ring opening polymerization of 1, 3, 5-trioxane. The formic acidaffects the chain length of the polymer giving rise to variations in mo-lecular weight and molecular weight distribution in the POM. Anotherproblem which can be caused by having too much formic acid in yourproduct is possible hydrolysis of the mixed anhydride end group of POMaffecting the polymers thermal stability.For other formaldehyde consumers formic acid is not an issue.What are we at Formox doing about it?During start up the amount of formic acid in the formaldehyde is typi-cally somewhat higher compared to after a couple of weeks of operation.After the initial period it normally drops to acceptable levels and remainsconstant until the catalyst needs to be re-loaded. We would like to reduceor control the formic acid content during start-up with new catalyst.Therefore, we are currently running a project to determine the best wayto do this.Formic acid is a simple molecule and is formed potentially by many differ-ent possible reactions, which can occur in many different areas in the pro-cess. The key areas are in the reactor, the absorber and in the storage tank.The ReactorHere are some reactions that can occur in the reactor to give formic acid:1. Over oxidation of formaldehydeCH2O + ½O2 Ò HCOOH2. Hydrolysis of methyl formateH3COOCH + H2O Ò HCOOH + CH3OH3. Oxidation of dimethyl etherH3COCH3 + 2O2 Ò 2HCOOH + H2O4. Disproportionation of formaldehyde2CH2O + H2O Ò HCOOH + CH3OHCleaning the reactor tubes thoroughly between reloads and making sure allcatalyst dust below the tubes is swept up or vented away after the reloadshas been seen to reduce the formic acid levels. Have you observed this?The AbsorberFormic acid can also be formed in the absorber. The following arepossible reactions that can occur in the absorber to produce formic acid:1. “Cannizzaro” type reaction2CH2O + H2O Ò HCOOH + CH3OH2. Hydrolysis of methyl formateH3COOCH + H2O Ò HCOOH + CH3OHNeil CruiseResearch AssociateFormox ABBYThe storage tankFormic acid can be formed even in the storage tank. Using the correctstorage temperature will help in minimizing formic acid production.The optimal storage temperature depends on the formaldehyde concen-tration where a span of 35-65 degrees can be applicable, but it also de-pends on a number of other parameters (storage configuration, usage ofstabilizers, days in storage). We therefore recommend our customers tocontact us to discuss the specific case.The more likely route for formic acid formation in the storage tank willbe by the Cannizzaro reaction and air oxidation of formaldehyde:1. “Cannizzaro” type reaction2CH2O + H2O Ò HCOOH + CH3OH2. Air oxidation of formaldehydeCH2O + ½O2 Ò HCOOH
  19. 19. 19Training & project news |new projects & start upsTraining & project newsNew projectsÆ An agreement has been signed for a FT2 plant to be supplied in the Middle East.Æ We are pleased to confirm an agreement with EGGER for the supply of a new FS2 UFC plant.Æ We have signed an agreement for a new plant to be supplied to a client in the Middle East.Æ We are in the design phase of a new UFC plant to be supplied to an existing customer in the Middle East, and we welcome the confidence that this second project demonstrates in the Formox technology.Æ Henan Coal & Chemical Industry Fine-Chemical Co., Ltd, Hebi, China, has signed up for a second FS3 plant.Æ An agreement has been signed for a FS3 plant to a European customer.Ongoing projectsÆ The project with two FT3 plants for CHONGQING CHANGFENG CHEMICAL INDUSTRY Co., Ltd, Chongqing, China, is in progress.Æ The FT3 plant for Shaanxi BDO Chemical Industry Co., Ltd, China, in the deign phase. This will be their second Formox plant.Æ Works on two Formox plants (FS3 + FT3) for Polyplastics Asia Pacific SDN. BHD, Malaysia, is in the design phase.Æ The project on a FS3 plant to be located in Asia, is in the shipping phase.Æ Works on the FS3 plant for Tangshan Zhonghao Chemical Co., Ltd, China, is proceeding well with start of installation this summer.Æ The project for an FT3 plant for Xinjiang Markor Chemical Industry Co., Ltd in Korla, China, is approaching mechanical completion with scheduled start-up 2012. This will be their second Formox plant in Korla.Start-upsÆ The first Formox FS3 plant supplied to Henan Coal & Chemical Industry Fine-Chemical Co., Ltd, Hebi, China, went on stream in April.Æ The new Formox FS3 plant for Nantong Jiangtian Chemical Co. Ltd, Nantong, China, was successfully started in June. This is their third Formox plant on this site.Æ The expansion with a second reactor line in an FT3 for Ningbo Wanhua Polyurethanes Co., Ltd, China, is going on stream about time of publication of this issue of informally speaking. This is their second FT3 plant on the Ningbo site.Engineering review meeting withCHONGQING CHANGFENG CHEMICALINDUSTRY Co., Ltd in April.A one-day training wasperformed in connection to theFormaldehyde Europe conferencein Perstorp in May. The trainingwas focused on hands-onexercises to improve operations.
  20. 20. 20new......& leftThe newsletter informally speaking aims to provide information aboutformaldehyde in an informal forum and is published twice annually byFormox for its customers and contacts in the formaldehyde business.The information included herein is part of our customer service andin no way entails or implies any undertakings, legal responsibilities orliabilities.Editor: Hedvig EkmanContributing writer: Charles Hodgdon, Bob CrichtonPublisher: Marie GrönborgLayout: Bodil SamevikPrinting: AM-tryck, Hässleholm, SwedenPublication: 2 times per yearCover image: EGGER Radauti, RomaniaFormox ABSE-284 80 Perstorp, SwedenPhone: +46 435 380 00E-mail: formox@perstorp.comA formaldehyde magazine from FormoxStefan WedmanEngineering ManagerHåkan SvärdInstrumental & DCS EngineerKai JauhiainenProcess EngineerCamilla EklundProcess EngineerAnne Rundström EliassonSales Coordinator| Personnel changesLars JennergrenProject ManagerOla SegerProject Engineer/Site SupervisorChristian LuckmanMechanical EngineerKarsten WilkenProject Engineer/Site SupervisorMariette WalterControllerPatrik LindkvistEngineering ManagerJan-Erik AndersenProject EngineerErik TimanderProject ManagerWe are glad to have had Patrik, Jan-Erik and Erik asour colleagues and wish them the best of luck in theircoming challenges.