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Technology Profile

HDPE Production via Slurry-Loop Process


By Intratec Solutions Methanol-to-olefms/
Steam cracking/
Ethane Methanol
polymerization
1_f polymerization

H
igh-density polyethylene
(HDPE) is one of the three Steam cracking/ HDPE Steam cracking/ APbutane
Naphtha homopolymer polymerization
main types of polyethylene, polymerization
and is among the most
commonly used polymers worldwide. Ethanol Dehydration/
polymerization
HDPE applications include blow­ □ Raw material □ Process ■ Mam product
n Steam cracking/
polymerization
Ethane/
propane

molding, injection molding, blown


FIGURE 2. Production pathways for HDPE are available for a number of different starting materials
and cast film, pipes and tubing, wire
and cable coating and more. heavies column. The uncondensed blocking agents are fed to a pelletiz­
stream passes through a second ing system, where the mixture is melt­
The process condenser at lower temperatures fored, homogenized and pelletized. The
The following paragraphs describe arecovering the diluent, which is re­ pellets are homogenized in blending
slurry-loop process for HDPE homo-used in the process. The remaining silos and finally packed in bags.
polymer production. Figure 1 pres­ gaseous stream is sent to the heav­
ents a simplified flow diagram. ies column. Production pathways
Feed Preparation. This area com­ In the purge column, the residual HDPE homopolymer production
prises a catalyst activation system hydrocarbons are stripped from the routes are based on ethylene manu­
(fluidized-bed activator) and fixed-bedpolymer product with heated nitro­ facturing. Figure 2 presents different
treaters for purification of ethylene gen gas. The resulting purge gas is pathways for HDPE production.
monomer and isobutane, which are sent to an isobutane-nitrogen recov­
used as diluent in the polymerization.ery unit. Nitrogen is recovered and Economic performance
Polymerization. In a loop reac­ reused in the column, while gaseousThe total operating cost (raw materi­
tor, the monomers and the catalyst isobutane is transferred to the heav­ als, utilities, fixed costs and depre­
suspension are mixed and circu­ ies column. ciation costs) estimated to produce
lated. As the polymer particles pre­ In the heavies column, isobutane HDPE was about $1,350 per ton of
cipitate, they do not dissolve in the and unreacted monomers are sepa­ HDPE in the fourth quarter of 2014.
slurry. Cooling water in the reactor rated in the overhead and sent to The analysis was based on a plant
jacket removes reaction heat. The the lights column. Fresh isobutane constructed in the U.S. with the ca­
slurry is continuously discharged to make-up is also routed to the lights pacity to produce 450,000 metric
a flash chamber, for removing resid­ column for removing light impurities. ton per year of HDPE.
ual monomers. The polymer productThe bottom product from this col­ This column is based on “HDPE
and residual dissolved hydrocarbonsumn, an olefin-free isobutane, is re­ Production via Slurry Loop Process
are fed to the purge column. cycled to the feed-preparation stage.- Cost Analysis,’’ published by In­
Separation. The flashed stream The overhead material from the tratec. The report can be found at
passes through a bag filter for poly­ lights column is partially condensed the following URL: www.intratec.us/
mer fines removal. While the fines are by low-temperature refrigerant for analysis/hdpe-production-cost. ■
sent to the purge column, the vapor recovering ethylene and light hy­ Edited by Scott Jenkins
stream is sent to the diluent recoverydrocarbons, which are separated in
Editor's note: The content (or this column is supplied
unit. In diluent recovery, the vapors an ethylene plant. Nitrogen gas and by Intratec Solutions LlC (Houston: www.intratec.us) and
from the flash chamber are sent to a non-condensable material from the edited by Chemical Engineering. The analyses and models
first partial condenser, where heavieroverhead are sent to a flare. presented are prepared on the basis of pubWy abatable
and non confidential information. The content represents
hydrocarbons and part of the diluentFinishing. The polymer powder from the opinions of Intratec only. Mote information about the
are condensed and transferred to thethe purge column, additives and anti-methodology lor preparing analysis can be found, along witti
terms of use. at www.intratec.us/che.
Recovered 1. Feed preparation
ethylene (from Isobutane makeup 2. Loop reactor
ethylene plant) Ethylene
recycle (to 3. Flash chamber
© ethylene plant) 4. Filter
Fresh ♦ (J) 5. Diluent recovery
ethylene 6. Purge column
® 7. Isobutane-nitrogen recovery unit
Catalysts B 8. Heavies column
and
chemicals

Additives and antiblocks


L Heavy ends CW
9. Lights column
10. Pelletizing
11. Product silos
12. Cooling tower
13. Steam boiler
ST
©
CW Cooling water
FIGURE 1. The diagram shows the production of ST Steam
homopolymer HDPE via slurry loop process HDPE

28 CHEMICAL ENGINEERING WWW.CHEMENGONLINE.COM JANUARY 2019