Lanxess Formalin Facility, Krefeld-Uerdingen, Germany

Formalin is used as a feedstock

In February 2010, speciality chemicals group Lanxess announced plans to establish a formalin plant at its Krefeld-Uerdingen site in Germany. Construction of the plant commenced in January 2011. The plant was officially opened on 24 April 2012.

"The plant is also used in the production of industrial chemicals. It will reduce Lanxess's dependence on external suppliers."

The facility has an annual production capacity of 150,000mt of formaldehyde with 32% concentration. Total investment in the plant was $23.19m (€18m).

Formalin is used as a feedstock for the production of trimethylolpropane (TMP), which is used for various product applications in the construction, furniture and automotive industries.

Formaldehyde is a simple aldehyde and a precursor of polymers. The aqueous solution of formaldehyde is formalin. The thermosetting derivatives of formalin have a strong market position, including phenol-formaldehyde and urea-formaldehyde resins, alkyd resins, acetaldehyde, pentaerythritol, bakelites, hexamine, polyester, novolacs, urea formaldehyde concentrate and melamine-urea-formaldehyde resins.

The plant is also used in the production of industrial chemicals. It will reduce Lanxess's dependence on external suppliers for formalin.

Background to Lanxess's formalin facility

The project was part of a major investment plan in the company's basic chemicals (BAC) business unit.

"The facility has an annual production capacity of 150,000mt of formaldehyde with 32% concentration."

The unit is a part of the Advanced Intermediates segment, which has four production sites in Germany - Leverkusen, Krefeld-Uerdingen, Brunsbüttel and Dormagen - along with operations in the US, China and India. Germany accounts for 1,500 of the company's 16,500-strong global workforce.

Lanxess is investing $51.5m (€40m) in total at the site. The remaining investment is for upgrading the menthol production plants at Krefeld-Uerdingen. Synthetic methanol produced at the site will be used to manufacture various pharmaceuticals and aromas.

The company had invested about $193.29m (€150m) in Germany in 2010 for the expansion of the production sites. The company also intends to promote Uerdingen in Germany as a major site for industrial production. The plans include infrastructure, trained personnel and access to scientific and technical innovation.

Design and construction of the German plant

The formalin facility is situated across 1,000 square metres. The project also involves the construction of methanol and formalin tanks. The formalin process facility has downstream thermal off-gas treatment and heat recovery systems.

Other works include extensive piping, for the connection of the plant with existing infrastructure, and a methanol unloading facility.

Contractors involved with the Krefeld-Uerdingen facility

Pörner Ingenieurgesellschaft Grimma, a subsidiary of Pörner Group, was awarded a turnkey contract for the construction of the formalin facility in March 2010. Pörner Grimma planned and built the plant. Process technology was provided by Dynea.

Type of technology used at Lanxess's plant

The plant uses Dynea Silver technology. Pörner Grimma, in cooperation with Dynea, has built 11 plants which incorporate the technology.

The formaldehyde has a clean and safe production process and does not involve oxygen or hot oils for cooling, which improves safety. The cleaning process involves a self-maintenance vaporiser and re-catalysation can be done within 24 hours by the removal of used catalyst. The fast-cooling heat boiler reduces the decomposition of waste.

The process does not require distillation because it has selective absorption of formaldehyde and water and methanol recycling, which improves yield and quality.

The concentration of the formaldehyde product is high (57% by weight) and has low methanol and formic acid concentrations. The Dynea Silver process requires less electricity, cooling and economical catalysts when compared to metal oxide technology.

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