Oleon Revives Fatty Acid Plant, Looks East


Oleon has started a new distillation tower at its fatty acid plant in Ertvelde, Belgium, a year after a fire destroyed part of the plants main distillation unit. The company has also begun construction of a lubricants ester plant in Malaysia as its first foray into the growing Asia-Pacific market.

Managing director Chris Depreeuw said Oleon is entering the Asia-Pacific market, where it has invested 15 million ($22.8 million) towards a new 25,000 metric tons per year plant. At this moment, we are starting the building of a lubes ester plant in Port Klang, Malaysia, with start up expected in February 2009, Depreeuw told Lube Report on Friday. Oleon considered building the new plant in the United States but decided Asia was most appealing because of cost aspects and future market potential, he added.

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A fire on Jan. 27, 2007 destroyed a column of the main 110,000 mt/y distillation unit at Oleons fatty acid plant in Ertvelde.

A completely new distillation tower has started up Jan. 28, Depreeuw said. The main unit had a capacity of 110,000 metric tons per year. I sincerely believe that ordering, getting permits for, and building this 300 tons-per-day Lurgi tower within 12 months was really an achievement, by Lurgi together with our team. Starting up went smoothly, and we are running close to full. Lurgi GmbH is a Frankfurt, Germany-based plant contractor.

Three other Oleon plants at the Ertvelde location – glycerine distillation (60,000 mt/y), a fatty alcohols plant (40,000 mt/y) and a then-new biodiesel plant (100,000 mt/y) – were not affected by the fire.

In March 2007, Oleon announced plans to build a new plant on nearby land at a cost of 30 million (U.S. $45.6 million).

Now we start the building of another identical distillation tower and a completely new splitting tower (350 metric tons per day), and a new hydrogenation unit, to replace the oldest fatty acids plant, he said. Commissioning, and starting up is foreseen at the beginning of 2009. Closing of the old plant – not hit by the fire last year, but just old and small – is foreseen also at the beginning of 2009. The older fatty acid plant has a smaller distillation unit of 80,000 mt/y capacity.

After the opening of the new fatty acid plant and closing of the old smaller one, Depreeuw said the net increase of capacity will then be more than 50,000 mt/y, which will bring the Ertvelde capacity up to about 240,000 mt/y of fatty acids.

Ertvelde, Belgium-based Oleon is the former oleochemicals division of Atofina/TotalFinaElf. It has two production sites in Belgium (in Ertvelde, Ghent, and in Olegem, Antwerp), one in Norway (Sanderfjord) and one in Germany (Emmerich).

Oleons plant in Emmerich, Germany – acquired from Akzo Nobel in 2006 – produces 60,000 mt/y of fatty acids and specialties, Depreeuw said. Its plants in Oelegem, Antwerp and in Sandefjord, Norway, together produce another 60,000 mt/y of ester, according to Depreeuw, about half of them for the lubricants market.

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