Clariant Catalysts and Lummus Technology’s joint polypropylene catalyst production plant in Louisville, Kentucky, was officially inaugurated on October 17, 2016. Today, it is Clariant’s largest catalyst production hub in North America and equipped with state-of-the-art systems that enable fully automated and digitalized operations. For a closer look at the technology and its effect on day-to-day processes, Clariant spoke to Wendell Borges, Production Manager of the Louisville polypropylene catalyst plant.
WB: Due to the plant’s advanced technologies, we are capable of producing a broad portfolio of polypropylene (PP) catalysts. One example is the NHP® Catalyst made exclusively for Lummus Technology’s highly versatile, reliable, and cost-efficient Novolen® process for the production of an entire range of PP resins. We also make Clariant’s high-performance PolyMax® Series catalysts, which are formulated for a wide variety of different PP process technologies.
WB: Before discussing digitalization, it is important to point out that it all starts with automation. We have removed manual steps and standardized processes in all areas, which dictate when products are run, how materials are selected, and where to produce. This reduces the burden on our operators who can more effectively manage plant activities.» …we have access to fast, fresh data on any mobile device in just a few clicks... «
The next layer is digitalization. Our system provides remote access to virtually every aspect of the plant. A multitude of tools collect, report and allow management of detailed features, such as consumption, utilities, raw materials, reactor temperatures, equipment performance and quality data – all within seconds. All of this information is sent to a global data pool, which is processed and combined into dashboards, so we have access to fast, fresh data on any mobile device in just a few clicks.
WB: All of this digital information is saved into a data pool, which enables detailed troubleshooting and optimization. For instance, by comparing a new production batch to the internal standard, we are able to assess and amend any deviations. Overall, digitalization leads to higher quality products while improving accuracy and boosting productivity.
Besides enhancing the manufacturing of current products, the system is also invaluable for developing or producing new catalyst series. The wealth of data collected from previous process experiences allows advanced statistical analyses and correlations to create the optimal catalyst morphology and particle size for each application, thereby drastically shortening new product launches.