Focus on ethylene
In the olefins sector, Ferrostaal's focus is on the production of ethylene and its downstream products. Ethylene is the most widely produced basic chemical in the petrochemical industry. More than three quarters of the total quantity produced is used in manufacture of PVC and various grades of polyethylene, which makes it an indispensable part of life. This ubiquitous presence can be observed in various forms: in packaging, electronic goods, textiles and many other areas.
Ethylene is primarily produced from naphtha, which in turn is a product of crude oil distillation. Natural gas is also used as a raw material for ethylene production in quite a few locations.
Customized plants for optimum results
Production of ethylene is accompanied by formation of various hydrocarbon byproducts. The plants are tailored for individual conditions for the projects concerned. This way high product selectivity and yields are achieved while minimizing energy consumption and various forms of pollution. Thanks to the fully developed quality management and cutting edge technologies, plants require minimum maintenance and have optimum operational lifetime.
Ethylene and its applications: From plastic bottles to high-tech fibers
Ethylene is the source material for synthesizing over 30 percent of all petrochemicals and is therefore particularly important in this sector. Over three quarters of the ethylene produced worldwide is used to produce plastics. The secondary products are subsequently used in almost all areas of modern life: from plastic bottles to electronic goods through rotor blades in wind power plants.
Ethylene is everywhere
In addition to plastic production, a host of other applications exist for ethylene and the secondary products based on it. For example, unprocessed ethylene is used to help fruit ripen. In refined form it is processed further to make products such as detergents, solvents and antifreeze. Products based on ethylene are used in almost all branches of industry, from insulating material for the building industry to smooth-running and abrasion-proof gears in machines, additives for fuels, through to the high-tech fiber "Dyneema" which is used as a surgical suture material.
Highly-specific end uses
The most important secondary petrochemical products of ethylene are polyethylene, ethylene dichloride, ethylene oxide and ethyl benzene. Depending on the type of further processing, plastics with a very wide variety of characteristics can be produced from these derivatives. For instance, the refined forms of ethylene are used among other things in medical implants, high-voltage insulators, acid-proof and flame-resistant materials, and high-strength compounds.
Individual solutions for complex processes
Ethylene is mainly produced using naphtha and/or natural gas as raw material. The most common method of steam cracking involves mixing of feedstock with steam and being subjected to pyrolysis. The effluents of pyrolysis are cooled abruptly to prevent them from polymerizing.
Multi-stage production process
Ethylene is separated from other byproducts of steam cracking to high levels of purity by multi-stage process. The effluents of cracker are cooled and then subjected to oil and water washing, thus enabling removal of major impurities. In the downstream, various products are separated in multi-stages distillations - Deethanizer, Depropanizer to name a few. The products are further polished in various steps depending on the feedstock, desired product quality and other conditions.
In ethylene production there are always project-specific requirements which can differ very greatly: The raw material used, the statutory regulations or the by-products required result in a wide range of general requirements. Consequently Ferrostaal and its partners offer their customers tailor-made solutions which satisfy an extremely wide range of requirements.
Maximum flexibility and quality
Through detailed adaptation to the prevailing general conditions Ferrostaal permits great flexibility, both for the input and the output of its plants. Liquid materials such as naphtha, LPG and HGO as well as gases such as natural gas, ethane and propane can be used as raw materials.
Continued upward trend on the ethylene market
The global market for ethylene is growing constantly: In the mid-1990s the global production capacity amounted to around 75,000 tons per year. In 2009 it was already over 125,000 tons. An increase to over 160,000 tons per year is forecast for 2015.
Return to the growth zone
The demand for ethylene is also constantly growing. Following a slight drop in 2008, it was already on the increase again by 2009. By 2015 it is expected that annual increases in production will lie between 3.9 and 7.5 percent. Despite the continuously increased capacities, it is anticipated that the utilization of the plants will increase following a decrease of a good six percent in 2008.
The largest producers
The five largest ethylene producers are Dow, Sabic, ExxonMobil, Access and Royal Dutch/Shell. Together they account for more than one quarter of global ethylene production.