CRODA helps ensure highest levels of safety in manufacture and handling of dangerous chemicals through the use of Almatec air-operated double-siaphragm (AODD) pumps. By Peter Schüten
Amid the towering storage tanks, stacked pallets loaded with 55-gallon drums and scurrying forklifts, two signs loom over the CRODA Iberica chemical-manufacturing facility located north of Barcelona in Mevisa, Spain. Written in the Catalan dialect, the first declares, “Res del que fem justifica que ens accidentem,” meaning “Nothing that we do justifies any accidents,” while the second states, “Fabriquem qualitat amb la maxima seguretat,” or “We manufacture quality with maximum safety.”
For Carles Xiol, those declarations are much more than simple decorations. “At this plant, we have difficult [operating] conditions and it is important that we use pumps that are very robust and have ATEX certifications,” says Xiol, who has worked at the Mevisa site for 15 years and is currently its maintenance manager.
At a facility that requires the use of more than 100 different pumps in its various production, transfer, handling and loading applications, identifying pump technologies that can meet the demands of working with potentially hazardous or dangerous raw materials or finished products is a critical concern. Fortunately for Xiol and CRODA, air-operated double-diaphragm (AODD) pumps from Almatec in Germany, are able to satisfy the demands for safe and secure handling of the chemicals that are the stock and trade of the Mevisa site’s manufacturing operations.
Slow and steady wins the race
CRODA was the brainchild of two men back in 1925, an entrepreneur named Crowe and a chemist named Dawes (from whence the CRODA name was conceived). Headquartered in the town of Snaith in East Yorkshire, England, CRODA began life as a refiner of the grease that was extracted from sheep’s wool into lanolin, which could be used as a rust-preventer in the engineering and automotive industries.
Fifteen years later, the all-hands-on-deck demands of World War II production and supply in England saw CRODA branch out into the manufacture of such diverse products as camouflage oils, insect repellents and gun-cleaning oils. This newfound versatility helped establish a different path for the company upon WWII’s completion. In the ensuing 75 years, CRODA has grown into one of the world’s leading manufacturers of speciality chemicals, with a particular emphasis placed on creating chemicals that are manufactured from renewable sources and in the most environmentally friendly and sustainable manner possible.
CRODA’s history is one of slow, but steady growth. The company expanded its operations to the USA with the opening of a sales office in New York City in the 1950s. The 1970s and 80s brought a series of acquisitions that enabled CRODA to further diversify its product portfolio and branch out into more and more markets. Today, the firm employs more than 4,300 people globally and has manufacturing sites or sales offices in 36 countries on six continents.
In 2018, CRODA marked 20 years since it launched its CRODA Iberica operation in Spain with a sales office in Barcelona and the manufacturing facility in Mevisa. The manufacturing plant produces a wide range of specialty chemicals and oleochemicals (chemicals derived from plant and animal fats) for use by a diverse client base.
“At this plant, we produce many different chemicals that are used in the production of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics,” explains Xiol.
The diversity of the customers that CRODA contracts with means that the plant must satisfy a plethora of individual manufacturing demands. Every customer has strict production schedules that must be consistently met. “Our customers are very demanding and we must satisfy their needs in full and on time,” continues Xiol. “It is important that we work with the right equipment suppliers.”
The perfect pump partner
The supplier for pumping equipment at the Mevisa plant is Tecnica de Fluidos, or TDF, which is based in Barcelona and has been serving the chemical-manufacturing market since its founding in 1976. “We have always been dedicated to the distribution of industrial pumps,” said Alberto Maestre Hoffmann, son of the company founder, Aurelio Losada Maestre, and for the past 20 years TDF’s managing director. “For us, it is very important to have long-term relationships with manufacturers because it takes time to learn this pump market, to learn about the applications and the products.”
With that in mind, TDF has been a distributor of Almatec AODD pumps for about 25 years. Almatec, a product brand of PSG, a Dover company, is a premier manufacturer of solid-body, plastic AODD pumps for use in critical fluid-handling applications in the chemical, hygienic, paper, paint and varnish, and water-treatment industries.
Almatec AODD pumps meet the need for leak-free and low-maintenance operation due to a design innovation that uses housing bolts that are tightened against a diaphragm-sized ring on each side of the housing. This design spreads the pumping force more evenly and allows for increased permissible bolt torque, which results in improved product containment. Other operational benefits of these pumps are smooth, volumetrically consistent operation even at the highest pump speeds, increased capacity due to an optimized flow pattern, decreased air consumption and a reduced noise level during operation.
At the CRODA Mevisa plant, a cadre of Almatec AODD pumps – most prominently, AHD series and E-series models – are used throughout the facility in a number of applications. One of the more notable ones is the transfer of titanium dioxide (TiO2), a white powder used in the production of pigments used in cosmetics and health-care products. In this instance, a 51mm E-50 model is used to pump upwards of 36m3/hr (600 L/min) of TiO2 at a time in an operation that requires the pump to be ATEX-certified.
The common denominator in performance for the Almatec pumps is that they all must adhere to the site’s mantra regarding safe, accident-free operation. This means they have to meet the strict standards of a number of international regulatory agencies that govern sites that work with or produce hazardous or dangerous chemicals. These include the International Organization for Standardization (specifically the ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 standards) and EXCiPACT, a provider of third-party oversight of pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors. “We decided to use Almatec pumps because they are very safe, reliable and easy to use and maintain,” says Xiol.
Stretched over the main throughway at the CRODA Mevisa plant is a third sign, one that accurately sums up the facility’s - and company’s - driving motivation: “Treballem per un future responsible I etic,” or “We work for a responsible and ethical future.” It’s an altruistic mission, but one that more and more companies are adopting as they seek to make their operations more environmentally friendly while continuing to reduce the risks placed on their employees. Almatec AODD pumps play a significant part in meeting these goals – and CRODA Mevisa employees such as Carles Xiol are thrilled that they can rely on Almatec to provide the type of pumps that enable him to operate a plant that adheres to the highest levels of safe, sustainable and accident-free operation.
“Almatec pumps last a long time and are able to work when needed,” he says. “They help me do my job.”
Peter Schüten is a product manager with Almatec in Germany.