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Solvent-free Deoiling

of Paraffin
Paraffin waxes are recovered from the residues of
BERNHARD JANS lubricating oil production. Sulzer Chemtech has
MANFRED STEPANSKI developed a new process, which is characterized by
SULZER CHEMTECH its low consumption of energy, high yield and
complete freedom from solvents and thus contributes
to the protection of the environment. The process is
employed in the world’s largest static crystallization
plant belonging to Schümann Sasol in Hamburg.

■ Waxes have been used in

many different ways since
the early days of mankind – the
• As a corrosion preventative or
inhibitor (water repellent)
Wax is a collective name for a
best known is probably Daedulus series of natural or artificial recov-
who, according to Greek mytholo- ered substances. The former com-
gy, made wings of wax and feath- mon definition (ester of long-chain
ers for himself and his son Icarus carboxylic acids with long-chain
to escape from Crete. They utilized alcohols) was extended, because
one of the characteristics of wax, the physical and technical charac-
which is now an important con- teristics of a substance are now the
stituent of hot-melt adhesives. At deciding factors for the assignment
the moment, the manufacture of (e.g. viscosity, fusibility and flam-
candles (Fig. 1■) is the most impor- mability). The crystalline waxes
tant and frequent application of with a paraffin base recovered
waxes. In the meantime, they have from crude oil are now the most
become indispensable for the man- important. They result from the
ufacture of many other products. production of lubricating oil, where
• For the protection of rubber they are looked upon as an
articles (e.g. tires and cables) unwanted contaminant. Regarded
against premature aging by the refineries as a waste prod-
1■ The manufacture of candles is through ozonization uct, the so-called slack waxes find
the most important application of • For the manufacture and im- ready acceptance in the wax indus-
paraffin. The purity and hardness of pregnation of paper and card- try. To meet a continuously in-
the paraffin determine the processing board creasing demand, they are used to
mode and subsequent flammability. • As a constituent of numerous produce more than 3 million
cosmetics (e.g. skin-cream, lip- tons/year high-quality waxes
© Photodisc
sticks and vaseline) throughout the world.


WHY DEOILING? of deoiling are known and used for
Waxes with a paraffin base have to the production of high-quality
fulfil extremely stringent require- paraffin: the old sweating method
ments. For example, the highly and the new, more efficient process 2■ The basic substance for the recovery of paraffin,
automated candle industry insists of deoiling with a solvent. The so-called slack wax, is a waste product of lubricating oil
on a constant product quality. The problems that arise with all sol- production and obtained in different compositions.
slack waxes (Fig. 2■) have to be vent processes are attributable to
purified for the manufacture of the environmentally hazardous
odor-free and drop-free candles. and unhealthy properties of the Deoiling by means of sweating was
Depending on their origin, they organic, frequently chlorinated, the only known, large-scale, tech-
can contain up to 20% oil-like, solvents that are used in large nically applied process for the
respectively low-melting compo- quantities, and also their corrosiv- deoiling of slack waxes. Admitted-
nents, which are removed by ity and high inflammability. In ly, this process is ecologically
means of a deoiling process. In gen- addition, the recovery of the sol- harmless and cost-effective, but
eral, a maximum oil content of 0.5 vent and the required cooling the yields and flexibility are insuf-
to 1.5 wt.% is required for the fin- increase the energy consumption. ficient.
ished product. The solidification
temperature and the hardness of
the wax, which is indicated by the SPARING THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE PURSE
needle penetration value, are fur-
ther quality characteristics. The construction of new chemical plants requires the provision of an environment-friendly
process and assured viability. The crystallization processes from Sulzer Chemtech prove
FLEXIBLE PRODUCTION, that these two requirements can be brought to a common denominator. They enable organ-
HIGH YIELD ic substances to be purified without any solvents. Furthermore, they are also characterized
Depending on the crude oil and the by their low energy requirement, high reliability and a wide field of application.
processing mode, the refineries The deoiling of paraffins on the basis of static crystallization is a successful and simple
supply slack waxes with very dif- process which, thanks to modern crystallizers and con-
ferent compositions. Flexibility for cepts, is now being employed on an increasing scale. 2

the very different raw material With static crystallizers, the crystals grow on cooling
characteristics is the fundamental elements, which immerse in the melts. Exact tempera-
requirement for modern processes. ture control is a decisive factor for crystal growth and 3
A high yield is a further condition. thus for the purification. The contaminants concen- 1
The demand for lubricating oil is trate in the remaining melts, which are drained off at
stagnating in Western Europe and the end of crystallization. After this, the crystal layer
North America, because modern is sweated to separate off any adhering contaminants.
engines do not need so much oil Finally, the crystal layer is melted off to provide the
and, at the same time, the propor- liquid product.
tion of synthetic lubricating oil is
increasing. In view of this, slack 4
waxes are only available in limited
quantities, and so the growing Static crystallizer with cooling and heating elements (1), on which the crystals grow:
demand can only be met by in- heat carrier (2), feed stock (3), product/residue (4). The crystallizer is located in the
creasing the yield. heating phase, in which the temperature is increased to melt the crystal layer.
Two fundamentally different forms


3■ A section of the plant during
the erection stage. The various
crystallizers are served by a fully
automatic process-control system.

These negative aspects obviously
fostered a call for the development
of a new deoiling process for slack
waxes, which would have to fulfil
the following criteria:
• Solvent-free deoiling
• Increased yield compared with
existing processes
• High flexibility with regard to
the changing characteristics of to meet the expectations with to the excessive oil content of the
the raw material and the end regard to product quality by means solidified products that caused the
product of multi-staging, i.e. repeated crys- crystal mass to prematurely slide
• Low production costs and thus tallization, the goals that were set off the heat exchanger plates and
high profitability for the yield could not be realized into the crystallizer during sweat-
The first tests conducted with var- with the existing equipment. The ing, and thus impaired good sepa-
ious slack waxes in standard crys- reprocessing of the residues by ration.
tallizers from Sulzer Chemtech means of further crystallization, The sliding of the crystal layer
revealed the limits of the existing which was practiced with other called for a supporting or holding
processes. Although it was possible products, also failed. This was due structure, which would facilitate
the exchange of heat and the run-
off of the expelled oil on the one
RECOOLING SYSTEM REALIZED IN A SHORT TIME hand, but would retain the paraf-
fin on the other. Following in-depth
The cooling water of the Sulzer Chemtec crystallization plant for Schümann Sasol has to be investigations with various ele-
recooled; this task is fulfilled by a plant from Sulzer Industriekälte. The total heat-trans- ments, a perforated plate structure
mission capacity is about 11 MW, whereby approximately 1400 m3/h has to be cooled from proved to be most suitable in prac-
33 ˚C to 25 ˚C. tice. This was the key to success
The scope of supply provided for a complete plant with steel structure, cooling tower and (see box “Sparing the environment
consumer pumps, internal pipework, electric switchgear with the electrical installation and and the purse”).
the lightning protection equip- The function of the structure may
ment. The water treatment unit be described as follows: The crystal
and the electric switchgear are layer is supported partly by guid-
accommodated in a container, ing elements, which are inclined
which is installed at a height of towards the heat exchanger plates.
about 6 metres (picture: right). This results in an enlargement of
The plant was commissioned on the surface and enables the crystal
schedule in mid-August 1998, layer to be routed to the surface of
just six months after the order the heat exchanger by means of a
was placed, and has been operat- slide on the deflector. At the same
ing trouble-free ever since. time, the expelled components re-
sulting from the heating of the


crystal layer are led off in a down- FIRST PLANT IN OPERATION the expenditure on personnel is
ward direction by way of special This new process was realized low. The hitherto high costs for the
guideways. For this, the guiding through the close cooperation of procurement, processing and dis-
element is provided with a perfora- Sulzer Chemtech and Schümann posal of the solvent can now be
tion through which the liquid frac- Sasol, the world’s leading supplier saved. All in all, this results in high
tions with their oil-content can of natural and artificial waxes. economic efficiency. Ω
drip. This company commissioned the
The conversion of the test appara- first deoiling plant successfully in
tus into an industrial plant result- Hamburg in 1998 (Fig. 4■).
ed in further customer require- Sulzer Chemtech provided the
ments which had to be fulfilled and basic engineering and 20 crystal-
were new for static crystallization lizers. 100 000 tons of slack wax
plants: are deoiled annually at this static
• Simultaneous deoiling of diverse crystallization plant, which is the
slack waxes largest in the world. It replaces two FOR MORE DETAILS
• Faster product change and thus old plants, in which chlorinated Sulzer Chemtech AG
high flexibility solvents were employed. In com- Bernhard Jans
• Guaranteed annual capacity of parison with existing plants, the CH-9470 Buchs
100 000 tons yield is 10 to 30% higher, and the Switzerland
• Monitoring of the complete plant specific consumption of energy has Telephone +41 (0)81-756 03 11
by only one employee been reduced by up to 30%. Thanks Fax +41 (0)81-756 40 12
A new process and automation con- to the automation of the process, E-mail
cept was elaborated for the fulfill-
ment of these tasks. In this case,
the crystallizers were divided into
part systems (Fig. 3■) and connect-
ed to a joint heating and cooling
system. An intermediate tank farm
permits a quick change between
various products and thus a start-
up without any loss of production.
A discharge sequence, which is
operated fully automatically by the
process-control system, was devel-
oped for the synchronization of the

4■ 100 000 tons of slack wax are

deoiled annually at the world’s
largest static crystallization
plant belonging to Schümann
Sasol in Hamburg.