Total investment in the project will be about €400 million, of which €250 million will be for the plant itself, and a further $150 million will be spent on related peripheral and utility facilities, according to Steffen Kühling, senior vice president, polyurethanes, Bayer MaterialScience. This includes a €100 million investment in an adjacent Air Liquide CO plant, which is currently under construction, as well as strengthening the supply of basic chemicals from other locations in the Chempark. Kühling noted that having all the precursors available on one site is one of the huge advantages to the development of the facility.
Currently, Bayer MaterialScience produces TDI in a different location in the Chempark but also in Brunsbüttel, more than four hours north of Dormagen on the coast of Germany. This means TDA produced at Dormagen had to be transferred there, which had both a cost and environmental detriment. The Brunsbüttel site is to be closed, while the 80 staff currently employed in Dormagen will transfer to the new facility, with an extra 20 people to be recruited.
X-head: Gas-phase technology
The plant is the second to use Bayer’s gas-phase phosgenation process; the first being its 250-ktpa TDI plant in Caojing, near Shanghai, that came on stream in October 2011. The building of the site in Dormagen brings this solution full-circle back to where the technology was first developed. Bayer ran a gas-phase phosgenation pilot plant at the Chempark from 2004-2011, Rainer Bruns, startup manager of the TDI unit, told UTI during the visit. This pilot plant has now been decommissioned and will be demolished at some point in the near future.
The main advantage of gas-phase phosgenation technology is that it reduces solvent consumption by around 80%, cutting energy consumption by up to 60% and reducing CO2 emissions by 60 000 tonnes, noted Tony Van Osselaer, member of the Bayer MaterialScience board of management. Energy efficiency is a key part of Bayer’s corporate strategy, the executives said. The chemicals giant has a companywide policy to reduce CO2 levels by 40% by 2020. Originally this target was 20%, but the company hit the 25% mark in 2011, Van Osselaer noted.
Kühling added that while phosgenation in the gas phase is more energy-efficient than in the solvent phase, it also poses problems as the gas phase is very short. “You have to do it in the right way,” he noted, otherwise there’s a possibility that the entire process would be at risk. But, the executives pointed out, optimising this process is exactly what the company has been doing for the last ten years in the 30 ktpa-pilot plant in Dormagen.
Work being carried out on the new facility involves two of Bayer’s business units: Bayer MaterialScience, which mainly deals with operational activities and planning, and Technology Services, a department that provides engineering and project management expertise to Bayer projects. During UTI’s visit, Christian Wissel, program manager, vice president, Technology Services, highlighted his role working in parallel with Bruns, who works under the MaterialScience umbrella.
Wissel used an analogy of two people being in the same car. Currently Wissel is in the driving seat, taking responsibility for the progression of the project while it is in the construction stage, though he works closely with Bruns. In 2014 as the facility reaches full mechanical completion and eventually starts up, Bruns will be at the wheel, coordinating the successful initiation of the plant.
Local and global focus
Van Osselaer also noted that the work being done showcases a “unique” skill in the industry, scaling up from 30 kt/yr to 300 kt/yr. “If you could go to the demo plant and then look at the big plant being built, you would see what kind of engineering capabilities have to be available to do that,” he said.