BOC officially opened its state-of-the-art acetylene production facility in Immingham, Lincolnshire this morning.
According to BOC, its new £35m production facility will provide UK and Ireland manufacturing industries with a secure source of acetylene for many years to come.
During the past three years BOC (part of The Linde Group) has continued to strengthen its acetylene supply capability with significant investments in production capacity, supply infrastructure and cylinder assets. The new production facility takes its inspiration from BOC’s sister company AGA, and is engineered with state-of-the-art process control and incorporates the highest degree of safety design throughout.
Jon Cleary, Immingham Operations Manager and part of the project team, told gasworld, “The plant incorporates the latest generation of a unique cylinder filling process originally developed by AGA, The Linde Group’s Swedish subsidiary, resulting in faster and more accurate filling compared to traditional processes.”
Everything at the plant is designed around safety, because when you’re producing, handling, filling, transporting, testing, extracting and supplying a flammable gas, nothing can be left to chance.
The plant is divided into sections based on pressure. At one end of the site is the low pressure end of the production process where turnbins containing calcium carbide are stored. The product is transferred from the turnbins via a nitrogen sealed double hopper into a reactor vessel filled with water, thus creating the acetylene.
The high pressure facility is located at the opposite end of the site, which is where the cylinder filling takes place – and this is a revelation to behold. In a traditional cylinder filling process, eight hours was the average time it took to fill a collection of cylinders – all to a varying degree of accuracy and carried out by pressure measurement, sample weighing and human judgement. At BOC’s new state-of-the art plant, individual cylinders can be filled by weight in just 40 minutes.
This modern method involves a large filling building comprising 40 filling manifolds catering for a range of cylinder sizes, as well as sensors, barcodes, weigh scales and glycol cooling devices which are placed over the shoulders of the cylinders. Monitoring the whole process are four 70-inch computer display screens. The entire operation is very tightly controlled to ensure every cylinder is filled with great precision: if a cylinder doesn’t have a history in the database, it has to be created before a fill can occur. And if the cylinder data you are trying to input doesn’t match the database’s records, then no fill can take place and no chance you can do anything with that cylinder for 24 hours.
Safety is truly at the heart of this new operation. And the same is true of its consideration for the environment.
“We recycle water used at the facility whenever and wherever we can. The glycol solution used to cool cylinders during filling is collected and recycled,” says Jon Cleary.
“The lime by-product is compressed to about a 60% solid, which we will sell on. However, the lime water released is then reused in the process in place of fresh water.”
“When designing the layout of the site we included an area that would be left to nature - we’re planting wild flowers and grasses to encourage local wildlife.”
The discovery of rare water voles frequenting a stream next to the new acetylene site resulted in BOC building a much larger bridge than was originally intended, to help protect the species.
“When I’ve been walking back and forth from the new plant to the offices I’ve seen lots of different wildlife in the stream and fields next to us – it’s a very reassuring sight,” Cleary said.
The 30-month build process included a significant amount of time spent on completing the documentation and assessment requirements to fulfil the numerous safety demonstration, security and planning protocols. These included a nine-month COMAH application. BOC worked closely with the local planning authority and regulatory stakeholders including the Health & Safety Executive, Environment Agency and Natural England.
According to Richard Gearing, Head of Operations for BOC, “This is a truly 21st Century plant: We have a newly-anchored supply chain with a plant that is big enough to meet the collective needs of the UK and Ireland.”
The new acetylene facility incorporates: