Williams Partners’ Olefins Production Plant, Louisiana, United States of America

Geismar plant site of Williams Olefins, located south of Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Williams Partners' expanded olefins plant in Geismar, US, restarted production in February 2015 and is expected to reach full production by end of June. Williams Partners own an 83.3% interest in the facility.

Activities at the Geismar site, located south of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, were suspended following an explosion in June 2013. The accident killed two people and injured approximately 77 workers.

The expansion project enabled the plant to produce a further 600 million pounds a year of ethylene.

Details of the explosion at Williams' chemical plant

Initial observations of the explosion suggested that it occurred from the propylene fractionator area of the plant. Equipment such as the piping, heat exchangers and reboilers near the area were severely damaged.

The damaged equipment has been replaced, alongside the expansion activities. Other replaced equipment owing to the explosion include certain electrical power cable and control wiring, pipe rack containing portions of the plant steam system, pipeline ethane feed vaporisation systems, fuel-gas conditioning equipment and support structures.

Details of the Williams Partners' plant in Geismar

The plant is a light-end natural gas liquid (NGL) cracker, which produces 37,000 barrels a day (bpd) of ethane, 3,000bpd of propane, 1.95 billion pounds of ethylene, and 90 million pounds of polymer-grade propylene a year. It also produces butadiene and debutanised aromatic concentrate (DAC).

Williams Partners' Louisiana facility expansion details

"The expansion project enabled the plant to produce an additional 600 million pounds a year of ethylene."

The expansion project increased the plant's ethylene production capacity to 1.95 billion pounds.

Mainly produced through steam cracking, ethylene is a primary building block for the chemical industry and is used to create a variety of products, including plastics, fibres and rubbers.

The cost of the expansion was estimated to be approximately between $350m and $400m. The engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the project was awarded to Chicago Bridge & Iron (CB&I) in April 2012.

The $300m contract also involved the supply of the cracking furnaces, and the license and basic engineering for the ethylene technology. The expansion project was approved in 2011 and was initially planned for a late 2013 start up but delayed due to unexpected events such as the accident.

Lummus technology for producing ethylene

The plant is installed with Lummus technology, which accounts for more than 40% of the ethylene production in the world.

Incorporated with CB&I's patented Short Residence Time (SRT) pyrolysis heater, the technology is designed to use feedstock efficiently ranging from ethane to vacuum gasoil, while the introduction of Quick Quencher transfer line exchanger (TLE) drastically reduces operating costs.

"The expansion project increased the plant's ethylene production capacity to 1.95 billion pounds."

The technology allows ethane, propane, butane, naphtha, gasoils or hydrocracked vacuum gasoils to be used as the feedstock.

The process initially involves thermal cracking of the feedstock in the presence of steam in pyrolysis furnaces. The olefin comprising effluent gas is then quenched by generating steam using water and oil. A gas turbine generator can also be integrated with the pyrolysis furnaces to produce electrical power and additional steam.

Effluent is then compressed in a three-stage centrifugal compressor, where acid gases are removed using monoethanolamine (MEA) or caustic soda. The gases are then dried over a molecular sieve.

The product is recovered at very low-temperatures in refrigerated fractionation systems. The refrigeration requirements are provided by a single mixed-refrigeration system. The acetylene compounds are hydrogenated in catalyst systems, and hydrogen is recovered via pressure swing adsorption (PSA) or methanation, while methane offgas is recovered and used as plant fuel.

Marketing commentary for Williams Olefins

Headquartered at Tulsa, Oklahoma, US, Williams Olefins processes approximately 6.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas, more than 200,000 barrels a day of natural gas liquids (NGL) and has a domestic olefins production capacity of 1.95 billion pounds of ethylene and 90 million pounds of propylene a year.

The company also operates approximately 15,000 miles of interstate gas pipelines, 1,000 miles of NGL transportation pipelines and more than 10,000 miles of oil and gas gathering pipelines.

NRI Energy Technology

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