By Rainer Wulf
Rob van Oostveen has one primary goal for his polymer emulsions plant: no loss of production. As the maintenance manager at Organik Kimya’s facility in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, he knows that every time production is lost, he gets a red mark under his name.
Each year the facility produces 176 million pounds of polymer for the paint and coatings industry and for adhesive tapes, which van Oostveen calls "sticky products." In total, the company manufactures 551 million pounds of polymers, with 150 types that are shipped to 85 countries.
Organik Kimya is a global producer of polymer emulsions and specialty chemicals for industry with international headquarters in Istanbul, Turkey. In 2007, the company opened its facility in the Netherlands, located in the Botlek chemical complex on Rotterdam Harbor.
In order to ensure this quantity of production, van Oostveen knows pumps play an essential role in ensuring safety in the process of assembling monomers in emulsion vessels and then pumping them to reactor vessels, where they react and form polymers.
At the plant, all of the raw finished products, many which can be toxic or hazardous to both humans and the environment, are always safely contained.
"Monomers are dangerous because they can be toxic and flammable," van Oostveen says. "The most important thing is if the pumps fail during the middle of an operation, we have to get the monomers out because they can react and you do not want a lot of harmful materials sitting in the pump for a long time. Also, if we have too much maintenance on the pumps, every time we have to open the system with dangerous materials it can be harmful to people and the environment, so every time we don’t have to open a pump it’s better because you protect everyone and the environment."
Breakdowns and leaks cost the company not only in lost in-service time and time spent precluding injury to site personnel and harm to the environment, but also in cleaning the leak and the pump.
"If we have to open up a pump, we have to flush it every time, and flushing takes time and a lot of money and also creates a lot of safety issues," van Oostveen says. "We have to flush the complete system, remove the pump and flush it again to make sure there are no chemicals inside it before we can even open up the pump. It takes a lot of work. Even with a very small spill, you can smell it. And every time we have a spill, you have to take the people out of the area and someone has to investigate it, and every time that happens it can take half an hour, which is not good because it is costing us money."
Additionally, the pumps must also be ATEX-certified because they handle potentially flammable materials. This also means that the pumps cannot generate any excessive heat when they are operating because it could ignite the flammable materials, creating more problems for the facility.
A safe, low-maintenance solution
To ensure production and safety assurance, since 2007 a quartet of C24i Series Eccentric Disc Pumps from Mouvex has handled the process of transferring a blend of monomers and water from the immersion vessels to the reactors. The pumps feature a seal-free design that does not require a mechanical seal, packing or magnets, eliminating leakage and reducing maintenance and downtime.
They also operate based on an eccentric-disc operating principle that allows for consistent flow rates and improved energy savings. The pumps are dry-run capable and handle both low- and high-viscosity liquids, while their strong suction power allows them to clear pipes of expensive materials and usable end products. This pump can deliver a flow rate of 6,340 gallons per hour at differential pressures to 130 pounds per square inch and at speeds up to 460 revolutions per minute.
Downtime in plants like this one can cost more than $50,000 an hour, according to Rob Blok, account manager for Verder B.V., but the pumps now in use reduce the risk of those potential costs. An air-operated double-diaphragm (AODD) pump could be used, but they prefer the fully enclosed ones they now use.
"A normal pump has a lot of wear parts, a lot of soft parts, and this pump has no soft parts inside," van Oostveen says. "That’s why it’s very low maintenance. Also, with its system of pumping, it doesn’t matter if the clearance is one micron or one millimeter (equivalent to 1,000 microns). It’s still pumping."
To ensure efficient production, van Oostveen is adamant that the Rotterdam facility use pumps that are reliable, dependable, easy to operate and, most importantly, safe for site personnel and the environment — and he has found all of those qualities in the eccentric disc pumps now in use for eight years.
"A leaking pump is not part of our business. A leaking pump is a bad deal. A leaking pump causes trouble in matters of fire-safety risk and also in toxic risk," he says. "What’s important for me is that we do it the first time right. We do not have a lot of time to play around with pumps and pump failures. We need the pumps running — running, running over and over again."
Rainer Wulf is the EMEA director of sales for Mouvex and Pump Solutions Group. Auxerre, France-based Mouvex was incorporated in 1906 and manufactures positive displacement pumps, screw compressors and hydraulic coolers. Mouvex is a product brand of PSG.