Overview

UBE Corporation is a leading manufacturer of chemicals for the plastics industry. Headquartered in Japan, the company runs several plants and logistics facilities in Asia, Europe, and the U.S. Two decades ago, UBE acquired production facilities linked to the BP oil refinery in Castellón de la Plana, Spain. There, the company produces caprolactam (raw material for nylon manufacturing), several fine chemicals (1,6-Hexanediol, 1,5-Pentanediol, etc.), and fertilizers (ammonium sulphate).

Problem

After 10 years in operation, the two Cooling Towers were experiencing a steep drop in performance. This directly affected the efficiency of their chemical reactors, which are a crucial part of the overall plant process.

During inspection of the Cooling Towers, the problem was identified as heavily obstructed fill, primarily caused by scaling. In collaboration with a Japanese company, Kurita, which services numerous Ube plants, significant presence of calcium, zinc, and phosphorus was detected across the surface of the cooling media. On average, the deposits on the surface of the fill were around 2mm thick, but some fill packs were considered “solid rock”. Fill weight, with inorganic salt deposits and biofouling, was more than 10 times the original weight of the clean fills.

Additionally, the PVC sheets were becoming brittle, and due to the deposits, the flute geometry was distorted. The presence of ferric oxides also indicated corrosion of the distribution system.

Solution

Revamping of the Cooling Towers required the installation of a new distribution system, equipped with a stainless steel water collector and our AccuSpray Nozzles. The robust concrete structure of the towers also needed a heavy-duty protective coating, and new FRP sidewall panels were installed.

At the heart of the towers, our offset-fluted fill, OF21MA, was installed to provide better cooling performance and increase the tower’s capacity over time. The fill packs were assembled on site using our own mechanical assembly technology, which limits Volatile Organic Compound emissions and reduces the risk of fire, important criteria that met UBE’s requirements for environmental and safety protection. To complement the fill, our highly efficient CF150MAx drift eliminators were installed to replace existing blade-type extrusions.

We provided full technical support to UBE throughout the implementation, including chemical analysis of deposits within the existing cooling fills and recommendations for water treatment.

Results

The first Cooling Tower significantly increased its performance, even with harsh conditions and an actual water flow more than 30% above design conditions. Based on historic data, the retrofit resulted in an improvement of more than 8°C in cold water temperature, which delivered significant energy savings and increased efficiency. The second tower was retrofitted several months later and yielded similar results.

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