Process plants are highly complex feats of engineering. But for our experts, the successful design and construction of a plant extends far beyond the process technology. The first step entails getting on the same page as our customers and really understanding their specific needs. The climate, local geography, technical requirements and economic backdrop make every project unique. We draw on decades of experience to arrive at the optimum process engineering solution – adjusting it, if necessary, to the needs of each customer.
Sophisticated process technology for ethylene production
Our customers’ projects present us with a host of choices and challenges – depending on individual requirements. Does it make sense to build a new plant from the ground up or revamp within an existing infrastructure? What are the products specified for the plant and what level of purity is required? Is the location in the desert or above the Arctic Circle? Looking at all of these variables, our first task is thus to work closely with the customer to create a blueprint for the plant based on the build location. When that is done, we decide on the most appropriate process technology – as one of our success stories in Russia demonstrates. A petrochemical company there approached us with a project to supply the domestic industry with 1.5 million tons of ethylene per annum. In addition, the plant was to produce a further 500,000 tons of propylene and 100,000 tons of butadiene. Today, at a location in western Siberia where the Tobol and Irtysch rivers meet, one of the world’s largest ethylene plants is almost ready for operation. With winter temperatures that can fall as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius, this is a place where the logistics, construction and operation of industrial plants pose particular challenges. Not only does every material, component and machine have to withstand freezing temperatures, but operation of the plant also needs to be economically viable. As a trusted technology partner and world-leading plant engineer, we stepped up to this challenge – using 100,000 tons of concrete, 60,000 tons of steel and 5,000 kilometers of cables to construct a massive complex spanning an area the size of around 100 soccer pitches.
Pioneering project on the Arctic shores
Linde Engineering is world-renowned for its ability to deliver extraordinary projects in the freezing cold. Close to Hammerfest, a small town in Norway, we constructed a high-tech industrial complex on a remote island some 800 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. One of the largest natural gas liquefaction plants in the world, this is where the Norwegian state oil and gas company Equinor (formerly Statoil) purifies, liquefies and ships the natural gas it extracts from underneath the Barents Sea. Hammerfest marked new geographical ground for our process technology. In addition, the design, construction and transport of key components was uncharted territory for us and the entire industry. The coldbox required to liquefy the natural gas to minus 163 degrees Celsius is 62 meters high and weighs 3,500 tons. Due to the challenging local climate, we assembled the unit in the Belgian port of Antwerp and transported it to Hammerfest by ship. The 35,000-ton process plant along with other modules were also brought to northern Norway by sea, this time from Cádiz in southern Spain. Modular designs may have been considered pioneering a decade ago, but nowadays they rank among our core competences. We consider all the options and opportunities early on in the planning stage and – working in close consultation with the customer – weigh up the merits of different construction approaches.
New requirements, new process technology
Far removed from the Arctic chill, our plants also operate reliably and efficiently in the scorching heat of the desert. Here also, we venture into uncharted terrain if that is what is necessary to meet our customers’ needs. For a gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant in Qatar, which requires massive volumes of oxygen to transform natural gas into liquid fuels, we developed a new air separation unit (ASU) deployment concept. Since the oxygen demand at this GTL plant would stretch a single ASU beyond its limits, we combined eight units to create a flexible, multi-train air separation facility. The eight identical coldboxes, each weighing 470 tons and with a height of 60 meters, together produce 860,000 standard cubic meters of oxygen from the surrounding air. This solution of combining multiple units has proven successful: several of our customers have opted for this multi-train approach in subsequent ASU projects. This reference project in Qatar demonstrates how we work with our customers to develop and establish new process technologies.
Making the world’s largest refinery fit for the future
A global player in the petrochemical industry was looking to revamp the world’s largest refinery. Here also, our skills proved to be the perfect fit for the job. In order to make its industrial complex in Jamnagar, India, fit for the future, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) installed a gasification complex as part of its third expansion phase. This allows RIL to use petroleum coke, normally a waste product, to produce valuable synthesis gas. Once processed, this syngas helps meet the plant’s enormous demand for hydrogen. The basic idea of converting waste into a valuable resource and thereby making the production process more sustainable and efficient is a recent trend in the petrochemicals industry, but one that is gaining global traction. We developed the concept and process technology required for this project in close collaboration with our customer. The unique solutions we delivered are installed in plants that rank among the largest in the world. In Jamnagar, we installed eight steam reformers, five air separation units and the world’s largest RECTISOL® plant, where synthesis gas is scrubbed using a process developed by Linde Engineering. We are proud that customers turn to us for follow-up contracts on completion of these successful projects. These follow-up projects also confirm that we are on the right path by working closely with our customers to lay the cornerstone for the build plans, select the best process technology and enhance this to engineer the concrete plant design.