Chemical and Polymer Project Engineering It's an Ideas Thing: Polymer Plant Engineers Think Bigger

Editor: Dominik Stephan

Engineering begins with an idea at a one-stop specialist for chemical and polymer projects  – Can a process that traces its roots back to the 19th century become even better today? Can the production capacity of a PET plant be enhanced by over 100 % without replacing the main reactor? And can a one-stop engineering provider still have a specific solution for each problem? The answer to all this questions is — yes, with the right ideas.

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(Source: EPC Engineering & Technologies, © Julien Eichinger -;[M]Grimm, GötzelHorn)

Little did the German scientist Alfred Einhorn know about the success-story that his discovery would turn into: When Einhorn first found polycarbonates during his researches at the University in Munich towards the end of the 19th century, he found the thermoplastic polymer material of little commercial use. The long hiatus for the materials only came to an end in 1953, when both Bayer and General Electric independently submitted patents for polycarbonate materials, starting an unprecedented success story.

Especially, after the original brownish polycarbonates were abandoned for glass clear transparent materials in the seventies, the sky seemed to be the limit for the poly- mer material — quite literally in fact, as today the canopy of Lockheed’s F-22 stealth fighter jet is made from a single piece of optical grade polycarbonate, making it the largest piece of its type worldwide.

Today, polycarbonate is mainly used for electronic applications that capitalize on its collective safety features, its properties as a good electrical insulator and its heat-resistant and flame-retardant characteristics. It is also used as a construction material, for CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs, in eye protection, for optical lenses or bottles. The versatile jack-of-all trades with its good impact resistance and optical quality stands between high-end engineering plastics and commodity polymers.

China ramps up its production to become independent from imports. Studies estimate that the country's polycarbonate demand reached 1.8 million tons in 2017 (over 900,000 of which are produced domestically).

Why Polymer Industries look to the East

As Asia has become the main growth driver for polycarbonates, companies are actively looking for technology leaders when it comes to new projects or the revamp of existing sites — companies like the EPC group. “We are among the few independent licensors for polycarbonate technology in the world”, says Managing Director Tim Henkel. “We see the market as one of the fastest growing business fields with great opportunities for our clients.”

Over the last few years, the German based technology provider has been awarded numerous new contracts — four of them in the polycarbonate industry in China.

Engineering Projects Around the World (Image Gallery)
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One for All in Plant Engineering...

With manufacturers competing on a global market, they are looking for both high product quality as well as production efficiency. Especially the company’s Variplant technology — a second generation Melt Polycarbonate Process — has proven its worth as an energy efficient plant design, backed up by EPC’s powerful project execution that saves time and cost.

One of the latest entries in the company’s list of successful projects is Daphoon's 100,000 tons-per-year production facility in Ningbo. The process enables the production of polycarbonates without the use of phosgene.

...All for One! A Single Source Package for Polymer Projects

But that is not all: EPC offers Variplant as a complete, single source package, including the main reactor system, a process-optimized rectification and modern vacuum system as well as an efficient process control. The approach to act as a one-stop solution provider for engineering projects is a unique feature of the company, Henkel believes.

Within its 24 years history, EPC has evolved from a pure engineering firm to a plant construction company and technology provider with a portfolio of more than 70 proprietary technologies, developed together with institutes, universities and other companies. “This is a major key to our success,” emphasizes Henkel. Over 1,000 projects in more than 40 countries provide evidence of EPC’s long and successful track record.

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