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Unique catalytic process test plant

In a unique pilot plant in Rotterdam, a consortium led by chemicals company Huntsman is to embark this autumn on a series of tests with heterogeneous regenerable catalysts.

Huntsman's plans to release the plant for similar follow-on projects once its tests are complete have led TNO, the Institute for Sustainable Process Technology (ISPT), and the Port of Rotterdam to invest in this facility. It is situated on the Plant One innovation centre site in Botlek. TNO sees major opportunities for the Dutch chemicals industry in the large-scale testing of new continuous processes. TNO's involvement, subject to confidentiality, is in testing the Huntsman catalyst, while determining how the plant can be used in the near future to test innovative catalytic processes. TNO intends to work together with industry and universities on this aim. The project has been placed under the Top Consortium for Knowledge & Innovation ISPT (TKI-ISPT), where it is within the 'Energy saving in Industry' innovation contract of the Energy Top Sector. The consortium's choice of the Botlek location at the Plant One innovation centre was a logical one, in view of its comprehensive facilities, in which companies are able to test and demonstrate process innovations on a pilot scale adjacent to the Huntsman Holland site.

Unusual history

The pilot plant has an unusual history. The Huntsman Corporation in the United States ordered the plant in 2009 with a view to testing a new production process, but put the project on hold because of the economic crisis. Huntsman recognized interesting opportunities at the neighbouring Plant One, which is ISPT's industrial partner. A rapid interplay of various parties soon led to the 'Pilot plant for the testing of thermic regeneration of catalyst' project, with financial support from ISPT, the Port of Rotterdam and TNO, alongside Huntsman and Plant One. Both sides benefit from this financial contribution, which puts Huntsman in a position to complete its own tests, after which industry and institutions will have the opportunity to use the pilot plant for process intensification, or chemical looping experiments.

Infinite variation

TNO is assigning an operator to the project to prepare and monitor the Huntsman experiments. These tests are oriented specifically to Huntsman's production process, but the company itself is also enthusiastic about the opportunities that the plant will subsequently give Dutch industry. Huntsman's European Operations Director, Max van der Meer, says that the plant will enable the industrial-scale testing of innovations in a way that allows rapid practical application. This is precisely why TNO is putting money and human resources into this initiative, and is studying potential alternative applications together with Plant One, for when the Huntsman tests complete. TNO's technical sciences project manager Murk van Rooijen describes the plant as a unique test environment for countless processes. 'The six reactors in series allow us to vary temperatures, flow velocities, and much more besides. Together with Plant One, the chemicals industry, and universities, we will soon be in full swing for the benefit of Dutch industry.'

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