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Control projects focus on quality and cost

5th April 2013


Accurate flow measurement and control has improved product quality and reduced production time at Unilever’s Gebze plant
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Installation of powerful control systems on chemical plants can bring substantial savings in terms of improved energy efficiency, reduced raw materials use, easier maintenance and larger capacities. Sean Ottewell reports
 
Honeywell has been awarded four major contracts worth a combined US$40 million (€31 million) over an 18-month duration for the Borouge petrochemicals complex in Ruwais, Abu Dhabi.
 
Honeywell will be the main automation contractor (MAC) for this project, providing Linde and other engineering, procurement and construction (EPCs) contractors involved in the project with integrated control and safety systems.
 
The installation of Honeywell Process Solutions’ (HPS) control and safety systems, Experion Process Knowledge System C300, Safety Manager, and Advanced Process Control will allow for operational integration, improved production, increased safety and reliability, and maximum operability and profitability. The Real Time Information Management System will provide Borouge 3 with business solutions that streamline, centralise and optimise operations, allowing for further profitability and productivity.
 
Borouge 3 is the latest expansion of Borouge’s polyolefins plant in Abu Dhabi and will manufacture ethylene, polyethylene, polypropylene, and low-density polyethylene (LDPE), alongside associated butane, utilities and offsite facilities.
 
Honeywell’s technologies have previously been implemented in the Borouge 1 project in 1999 and the Borouge 2 project in 2010, and will continue to help Borouge meet its strategic goal of expanding the production capacity of the plant, making it the largest integrated polyolefins site in the world.
 
“We continue to see countries in the Middle East, such as the UAE, invest in growing their petrochemical capacity, as part of economic diversification strategies,” said Mansour Belhadj, sales director, Honeywell Process Solutions, Middle East. “With the Gulf region’s share in the global petrochemical market expected to grow to 20 per cent by 2015, there is also a corresponding need for reliable, cost-effective processes, such as the solutions selected for Borouge 3, which can ensure that operational efficiencies are an integral part of the growth process.”
 
Also in the UAE, the Qatar Fertiliser Company (QAFCO) has renewed a contract with Honeywell to provide safety and automation systems for QAFCO’s existing plants, expansion projects and future projects. The agreement - one of the longest duration agreements of its kind to be signed in the Middle East – is for 10 years with an option to extend for an additional four.
 
QAFCO was founded in 1969 as Qatar’s first large-scale venture to support diversification of the country’s economy whilst using its extensive natural gas reserves. After successfully implementing several expansion projects over the past three decades, QAFCO has evolved into a world-class fertiliser producer currently exporting ammonia and urea to more than 35 countries.
 
“The partnership between QAFCO and Honeywell is built on mutual trust and respect,” says Khalifa Al-Sowaidi, vice-chairman and ceo of QAFCO. “For our greenfield sites, we will deploy Honeywell’s Advanced Process Control and Operator Trainer Simulator technologies to optimise process performance and workforce training. For our brownfield sites, we will receive risk-free project implementation of the latest technology, backed up by long-term support at overall lower cost of ownership.”
 
The agreement covers six ammonia plants, six urea plants and a melamine plant, and will involve the provision of Honeywell’s Distributed Control Systems, Emergency Shutdown Systems, and advanced application systems, such as Plant Information Management Systems, Laboratory Information Management Systems, Advanced Process Control, and Operator Training Simulators.
 
Such long-term agreements are rare for companies in the Middle East, making this latest contract a significant show of QAFCO’s faith in Honeywell’s industrial technology. The latest agreement increases the scope of the previous partnership and incorporates QAFCO’s future business needs, allowing QAFCO to utilise Honeywell’s local support capabilities with minimal technical and commercial execution risk.
 
Honeywell says it is unique among automation suppliers to the fertiliser industry in that it owns and operates an ammonia plant, which combined with its deep domain experience built up over decades of experience in designing, installing and maintaining automation systems for petrochemical manufacturers, provides QAFCO with a highly experienced automation partner.


 
Shampoo blending challenge

 
Unilever has installed six Micro Motion ELITE and F-Series Coriolis flowmeters from Emerson Process Management to measure the mass flow of silicone feedstock used to manufacture shampoo products.
 
The flowmeters’ highly accurate mass flow measurements have improved product quality and reduced production time by 10–15 per cent at the Unilever facility in Gebze, Turkey − one of the world’s largest manufacturing plants for detergent, household and personal care products (Fig. 1).
 
A new automatic silicone mixer line for shampoo products is part of a major investment programme by Unilever to meet increased demand for these products, including its Clear, Clear Cosmo, Dove and Elidor brands.
 
The accuracy of the blending process on the mixer line is critically important to the quality of the final products, but after the new mixing line was started, Unilever discovered that the original Coriolis flowmeters (which were not Emerson products) were unable to measure feedstock flow because of entrained gas in the silicone.
 
To ensure production could continue with the best product quality, Unilever decided to use a process of weigh scales and load cells to replace the unsuccessful flow measurement system.
 
However, the resulting handling, transport and storage of over 7000 bbl/y of silicone increased production time, operating costs, and health and safety risks.
 
Wastage increased because 1–2 per cent of the silicone was left in the empty barrels. The equipment used to handle the barrels also increased plant energy usage and costs. Most importantly, the silicone measurement accuracy from the weigh scales was lower than expected and not sufficient to meet Unilever’s exacting quality standards.
 
To eliminate the weighing process, Unilever required a highly accurate measurement system based on mass flow. However, the presence of entrained gas in the silicone feedstock used in the blending process made this a challenging application − as demonstrated by the failure of the previous Coriolis meters. This challenge was compounded by the need to operate at a vacuum of -700 mbarg, to help separate bubbles from the silicone and improve the quality of mixing. Unilever evaluated several types of Coriolis flowmeters supplied by various vendors, but the tests were unsuccessful under these extreme operating conditions.
 
To address these issues, Emerson worked with Unilever to investigate how Micro Motion ELITE Coriolis flowmeters, which were not included in the previous evaluation, would perform in the same conditions.
 
Emerson’s Micro Motion ELITE Coriolis flowmeters feature low-frequency flow sensors that increase flow accuracy in the presence of two-phase flow. Multivariable digital (MVD) technology considerably improves the accuracy and stability of the Coriolis signals from the flow sensor. Enhanced signal processing, as well as sensor stability and design, ensures accurate measurements even under entrained gas conditions. Extensive onsite tests proved the performance of the Micro Motion ELITE Coriolis flowmeter.
 
"Our tests concluded that Micro Motion ELITE Coriolis flowmeters are the only meters that can successfully measure silicone feedstock flow with high density bubbles,” said Atilla Bozkaya, Unilever project control and system design engineer. “The meters maintained measurement accuracy despite operating in the -700 mbarg vacuum needed in this application.”
 
Installing the Micro Motion flowmeters enabled Unilever to eliminate the process of weigh scales and load cells, reducing operating costs by 17 per cent.  In addition, the reduced handling of the silicone feedstock has reduced health and safety issues and minimised the risk of accidental spills that could damage the environment.
 
Based on the performance of Emerson’s Coriolis flowmeters, Unilever installed an additional 12 Micro Motion ELITE and F-Series Coriolis flowmeters at Gebze when the capacity of the line was increased with two more mixers. Unilever is also expanding the use of Micro Motion products to other similar harsh applications and locations. For example, a Micro Motion ELITE Coriolis flowmeter was recently installed at a Unilever plant in Nigeria to measure detergent slurry.
 
Refinery power deal
 
ABB has won an order worth around US$11 million (€8.5 million), from EPC contractor JSC OGCC KazStroy Service for equipment that will facilitate power supply to a new hydrocarbons production complex being built as part of the Atyrau refinery in Kazakhstan.
 
As part of the order, ABB will supply substation automation equipment equipped with the latest generation of protection and control equipment, compliant with global IEC 61850 standards, to enable open communication, monitoring and control.
 
“ABB’s power products will play an important role in supplying quality power, efficiently and reliably to this refinery,” said Giandomenico Rivetti, head of ABB’s high voltage products business, a part of the company’s power products division. “We are pleased to contribute to the country’s development of its industrial and power infrastructure,” he added.
 
The Atyrau Refinery is the largest refinery in Kazakhstan, with a capacity of 100,000 bbl/d of crude oil. The plant was put into operation in 1945. The new hydrocarbons complex is in line with the country’s drive to bring in the latest technologies to modernize its infrastructure as part of its national development strategy, and is expected to make an important contribution to economic development in Kazakhstan.
 
In the first phase the project will help in enhancing the quality of gasoline and diesel to Euro-4 standards. The second phase will focus on producing benzene and paraxylene to serve the petrochemical industry.


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