To Ensure The Chemistry Is Always Correct

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To Ensure The Chemistry Is Always Correct

In addition to the impending PFAS ban, stricter environmental regulations and energy prices are consistently challenging the chemical industry. New pipelines for the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier, as well as raw material are therefore becoming significantly more important. This is because they logistically support chemical companies to fulfill ecological requirements. With their quality pipes and pipework systems for implementing pipelines, manufacturers are proving to be reliable pillars for a successful future. To ensure the chemistry is always correct.

The industry is now in transition: “The production processes of the chemical industry are currently altering rapidly,” explains the Fraunhofer Institute IGB. In doing so, the chemical industry must also survive threatening scenarios, such as the EU Commission’s threat to ban perfluorinated and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), which have been criticised for their long durability and harmfulness to the environment. However, there are considerable concerns about such a ban, including from the Federal Association of German Industry (BDI). “The broad regulation for entire groups of substances, irrespective of the actual risk of the individual substances, is not appropriate from the industry’s point of view.” The consequence of a ban would be significant restrictions on the production of plastic pipes and plastic-lined steel pipes.

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Plastic pipes are required by the chemical industry: According to the BDI, PFAS are “always utilised in many industries when extreme framework conditions such as high or low temperatures, high frictional resistances or aggressive chemical conditions require them in their applications“. Eliminating several thousand PFAS could mean, however, that “many urgently needed applications could no longer be produced in the EU, as there are currently no suitable alternatives”. A problem would arise for the manufacture of pipes and pipework systems for the chemical industry.

 Stainless steels

Stainless steels are also often utilised in the chemical industry. For example, Outokumpu provides solutions which “reflect the industry’s requirements for performance in extreme temperatures, highly corrosive environments, high pressure handling, and high purity of the final product.” The chemical industry without stainless steel pipes is unimaginable.

Bimetallic pipes are often also utilised in chemical plants. They can comprise a stainless steel outer pipe and a zirconium inner pipe liner. Pipes, which are produced with these materials, have one thing in common, they withstand corrosive chemicals. Production losses as well as plant downtimes and pipeline failures are prevented by using suitable materials. Therefore, “pipeline systems are essential for the safe transport of water, chemicals and gases,” emphasises GF Piping Systems.

Hydrogen as a raw material and energy source

In order to maintain its competitiveness, the chemical industry urgently needs hydrogen – as a raw material, because it is the initial point for important chemical value chains. And also as an energy source. For the transport of the booming material, a suitable infrastructure is necessary, which in turn requires numerous pipes. An advantage of using pipelines: They are “the safest, most environmentally friendly and most reliable means of transport,” explains the German Chemical Industry Association (VCI). That is why the chemical industry has long relied on pipelines.

In addition to the safe and environmentally friendly supply of chemical locations, a well-developed pipeline network is an important building block for the transformation of the industry towards greenhouse gas neutrality, according to VCI. “They can be utilised to execute the transport process for materials such as hydrogen, they can be used to temporarily store energy and they play an important role in the recycling of CO2 as part of so-called carbon capture and usage or storage projects (CCU/S). Pipelines contribute to a safe and reliable supply of raw materials in times of insufficient rail freight capacity and seasonal transport restrictions on the waterways (low water of the Rhine),” explains the VCI.

Investments in pipelines

The chemical industry relies on pipeline networks: An important lifeline of the Ruhr Metropolis is the PRG propylene pipeline as a pipeline network. The PRG propylene pipeline creates the backbone of propylene chemistry in the Ruhr Metropolis, emphasises PRG Propylenepipeline Ruhr GmbH & Co. KG. Propylene is delivered via this system because it has not been produced in sufficient quantity in the region for years.

Additional, ongoing construction of pipelines is an important task for the present and future of the chemical industry, for which pipe production is therefore essential. Ten companies – including BASF, Borealis, BP, Dow, Evonik and the Port of Rotterdam – have signed an agreement on cross-border pipeline development in the trilateral region. It is a cooperation for the chemical industry in Flanders, the Netherlands and North Rhine-Westphalia (“TRILOGUE”), in which the annual turnover is 180 billion Euros and more than 350,000 members of staff are currently employed. “Pipelines are the ‘lifelines’ of the trilateral chemical cluster; as the cleanest and safest mode of transport, their importance for the competitiveness of the industry will continue to grow,” emphasises the German Association VCI. Once again, numerous pipes are required for implementing these pipelines.

A new 140-kilometre-long hydrogen pipeline will connect Germany and Denmark. From 2027 onwards, H2 is to flow from the island of Bornholm to Lubmin. “This cross-border hydrogen infrastructure is intended to drive the development of offshore wind energy in the region and throughout the Baltic Sea,” explains the hydrogen grid operator Gascade. In addition, it indicates a cost-efficient decarbonisation path for the north-east European energy system. In addition to the direct connection between Germany and Denmark, there are considerations, according to Gascade, to manufacture the interconnector with a future Baltic Sea backbone towards Sweden and Finland.

Pipes as enablers of progress

With the increased use of hydrogen as an energy source, which has been made possible by underlying pipeline logistics, the chemical industry is in a win-win situation: This is because it can thereby strengthen its international competitiveness against the background of stricter environmental requirements and also with a view to rising energy prices.

However, if renewable raw materials or biogenic residues are increasingly utilised as starting materials, then “processes, plants, material recipes, process parameters or methods for quality control and safety assessment usually also have to be adapted, which also has an impact on upstream and downstream industries,” Fraunhofer IGB explains. Without the pipe industry, the transition will not be therefore feasible: It will develop into an enabler of the progress of the chemical industry.

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