Saturday, 18 October 2014

Plant expansion at LANXESS in Leverkusen:

More Lewatit for the food industry


Millions invested in the production of weak acid cation exchange
resins and new food-compatible filling unit
Specialty chemicals company LANXESS is expanding its business with
water treatment solutions. On September 26, 2014, the
company inaugurates a new production line at its largest site
worldwide in Leverkusen for the production of the Lewatit premium
brand of weak acid cation (WAC) exchange resins, as well as
bringing a cutting-edge food-compatible filling and packing system
into operation. Some EUR 10 million has been invested in the
expansion, which began in April 2013. The additional volumes will be
available to the global market with immediate effect.

Rainier van Roessel, a member of the LANXESS AG Board of
Management, explains the significance of this investment: "Demand for
special cation exchange resins alone is growing at a rate of three
to five percent each year. This is why we are raising our profile in this
sector and increasing production capacity for WAC resins in
Leverkusen by around one third. This investment is a clear indication
of our commitment not only to promoting responsible usage of the
precious resource water, but also to this site and to the region as a
whole." The Lewatit brand of heterodisperse ion exchange resins has
been produced in Leverkusen since the mid-1960s.

Highly automated production
The technical aspects of the new production line reflect many years of
experience producing WAC resins. The discontinuous (i.e. batch)
production process begins with the creation of polymer beads
through emulsion polymerization. A mixture of the two polymer
components, the monomer and the crosslinker, is placed in an inert
solvent in a "beading tank" to form a finely distributed emulsion.

Adhering precisely to the reaction parameters is essential for creating
a high-quality product. "This is where our many years of experience
are particularly important," says technical plant manager Uwe
Tegtmeier. "To maintain a high degree of reproducibility and
consistency in quality at this stage, the procedures involved are
largely automated."

Sophisticated safety technology ensures that the highly exothermic
(heat-generating) reaction takes place safely. If this technology fails,
there is also a non-electric safety system in reserve that can stop a
reaction fully automatically if it becomes too powerful. "In this respect we
insist not merely on double redundancy, but on a triply redundant
safety system, so that everything is always under full control," says
Tegtmeier. Once the monomer has been processed and the reaction
comes to an end, the beads are filtered from the liquid reaction
medium and assigned the relevant functional groups. Because of
their negative charge, the functional groups are capable of binding
positively charged ions (cations). In the case of weak acid cation
exchange resins, they are organic acid residues known as carboxyl
groups. This is how an ion exchange resin is produced from an
almost entirely unreactive polymer.

Food-compatible filling system
To complement the site's existing filling plant, the recent capacity
expansion also included the construction of a new building for filling
products destined for food applications. With this food-compatible
packaging facility, LANXESS is setting very high standards for
product purity and ensuring even better quality. "Demand for food
application products is increasing - as are hygiene requirements
within the industry. This highly efficient filling and packaging system,
which to our knowledge is absolutely unique, equips us perfectly for
filling the ever greater volumes that will be produced in the future
following our capacity expansion," says Jean-Marc Vesselle, Senior
Vice President of the Liquid Purification Technologies business unit
at LANXESS. "Even before being brought into operation, our new
food-compatible filling unit has attracted major market interest," adds
Tegtmeier. The centerpiece is the "white zone" of the new plant,
which was designed according to the "black and white" principle. This
principle was originally developed and used in the mining industry
and serves to keep clean ("white") and contaminated ("black") work areas
separate.
The white zone is supplied with filtered air and is under positive
pressure to prevent impurities in the surrounding environment from
entering. The specially trained personnel who work there also wear
protective clothing.
Inside this hall, which covers some 300 square meters, products are
fed from several silos into big bags and drums on stainless steel
pallets so that they can immediately be weighed, labeled and
transported. A rail-bound transportation system is used instead of
conventional forklifts. Packaging material can be delivered via three
truck ramps. Before being transported to the adjoining storage and
dispatch building, the containers are transferred fully automatically
onto wooden pallets and sealed in weatherproof film. There is an
additional buffer storage area next to the workroom.

Detailed information about the company's wide range of products is
available online at www.lewatit.com

The Liquid Purification Technologies business unit is part of
LANXESS' Performance Chemicals segment, which generated sales
of EUR 2.13 billion in the 2013 fiscal year.

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