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Special Graphit More than Just Pencils: Special Graphite for the Process Industry

| Author / Editor: Anke Geipel-Kern / Dr. Jörg Kempf

In 2009, the SGL Group’s Process Technology Business Unit changed tact and began taking the initiative by deciding to act rather than react. When PROCESS paid Frank Wittchen, who is in charge of the BU, a visit, he explained why he prefers to reach out to customers and outlined what he means by the 3D strategy...

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Special graphites are highly valued as high-performance temperature and corrosion resistant materials in the chemical industry.
Special graphites are highly valued as high-performance temperature and corrosion resistant materials in the chemical industry.
(Pictures: SGL Carbon)

If the word graphite brings nothing more to mind than pencil lead or a type of lubricant or if you think that Fullerenes and carbon nanotubes are the most exciting incarnations of carbon, then you still have a lot to learn. “With graphite, we can create technical solutions that would not be possible without it,” claims Frank Wittchen who by profession is an advocate of this material. An order which he acquired last year for the Process Technology Business Unit was the largest ever single order in the history of the SGL Group.

Special Graphit Gains Acceptance Rapidly

When we visited him at corporate headquarters in Wiesbaden/Germany, he started talking right away about his favorite topic. The SGL Group has been supplying graphite-based systems and equipment for 60 years, but Process Technology introduced a new strategy in 2009.

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“We are a fully-fledged global player and we are actively marketing our products in every region of the world," he reported. The decision to concentrate on three key dimensions, namely new products, new industries and all of the world’s regions is termed the 3D strategy, and it is now producing results. “On average, we are achieving 10% annual growth,” said Wittchen.

New Materials for Demanding Applications in the Chemical Industry

The highlight up to this point was an order for delivery of a two-pressure hydrochloric acid recycling system for the huge Chinese magnesium producer Quinghai Salt Lake. The order generated revenue in excess of 20 million euros. It included dedicated process engineering and a full set of equipment including columns, reboilers, pumps, tanks and other items.

Essentially, the idea is based on using magnesium chloride which is available in abundance as an extraction agent, minimizing both energy consumption and operating costs. The system is scheduled to begin operating at the end of 2013. Wittchen sees this as an example of what graphite materials are capable of and how they can help save energy...

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