50 Years of Chlorine Production in Dormagen
2017-12-05    [Source:Covestro]

Chlorine is one of the most important basic substances for Covestro, and plastics cannot be produced without it. Some 50 years ago, in the summer of 1967, chlorine production began at the Chempark Dormagen site to meet the growing demand. Five decades later, the facility and equipment have expanded and are safer and more environmentally friendly than ever. Chlorine is now used in the production of around 80 percent of all Covestro products, as well as being an essential resource for many other companies at the chemical park.

Chlorine is made from the basic ingredients of sodium chloride, water and electricity, and that is all modern electrolysis needs to produce chlorine, sodium hydroxide solution and hydrogen. Chlorine is essential to the production of polycarbonate and polyurethane materials, which can be found in many everyday products, such as mobile phone and computer cases, automobile parts, insulation and foam mattresses.

Expanding on an annual basis

When it opened in 1967, this “Chlorfabrik” or chlorine factory, as employees called it, had an annual capacity of 50,000 metric tons, but plans for the first several expansions of the plant soon followed. Electrolysis was increased on a nearly annual basis. With an annual capacity of 480,000 tons today, the Dormagen plant is the company’s largest chlorine production facility in the world. “A 50th anniversary of a production facility is a special occasion. It is even more special when it involves chlorine production, which is at the heart of our facility,” says Dr. Klaus Schäfer, member of the Covestro Board of Management responsible for Production and Technology, at the anniversary celebration at the Dormagen plant.

The steady expansion of capacity involved a number of technical innovations. “Over the past 50 years, we have substantially reduced the amount of energy required for chlorine production,” explains Schäfer. One milestone during this period was the conversion to membrane technology, which has reduced energy consumption by around 30 percent and marks the greatest technical change to chlorine production at Dormagen.

The membrane process required a better quality of salt, which also enabled new and more environmentally friendly transport options. While salt used to be delivered by ship to the Dormagen Rhine port, where it was loaded on trucks for transport to the plant, the new slurry process has had a positive impact. In this process, the salt is suspended in water at the port and then pumped to the plant via pipes. This results in some 80 fewer truck trips per day than before.

High plant availability despite numerous modifications

There has been almost no downtime in all the years the plant has been in operation, even with numerous updates to the facility. “For our customers, a suspension of production would be like the electricity in your home being shut off. That is why we need to ensure the high availability of our facility,” explains Dr. Johann Rechner, Head of Basic Chemicals Dormagen. NRW site manager Dr. Klaus Jaeger is proud of the plant’s reliability and the performance of its employees as well: “Our production team has made an important contribution to this success. They more than meet their responsibility for ensuring a reliable supply of raw materials at all times. This can also be seen in the high level of safety achieved over the years.” The facility will continue to grow, and another logistics expansion is already being planned, with two additional loading stations for rail tank cars and another tank for hydrochloric acid having already been approved. “I am confident that the team will continue its success,” Jaeger enthuses.

About Covestro:

With 2016 sales of EUR 11.9 billion, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, and electrical and electronics industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics, health and the chemical industry itself. Covestro has 30 production sites worldwide and employs approximately 15,600 people (calculated as full-time equivalents) at the end of 2016.

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