A ‘Spiroflow’ Bulk Bag Discharger puts on a good face for Innospec Ltd – a subsidiary of Innospec Inc

by Carolynn Sarver

In June 2007 UK based Innospec Ltd, a subsidiary of Innospec Inc, started operations on the first new-build plant on their Ellesmere Port site since 1996. Their ‘show-case’ plant, which manufactures products for personal care applications, includes a ‘Spiroflow’ Big Bag Discharger with integral Flexible Screw Conveyor as the means of charging the process reactor.

The main ingredient of the product is delivered to site in big bags (FIBC’s). For each batch, the contents of several big bags are charged into the process reactor together with a catalyst from 25kg bags added manually through the Discharger’s access doors. Charging the reactor takes an hour – which was the time specified from the outset.

Because the big bags arrive in ISO containers that have travelled over land and sea, their normally free-flowing, flake-like contents can be somewhat compacted, especially in those bags from the bottom of the pile. To overcome the difficulties that such compaction can cause, the ‘Spiroflow’ Big Bag Discharger is fitted with bag massagers that operate on both the sides and the base of the bags.

The products manufactured at Ellesmere Port are for the European market and the manufacturing plant replicates a US plant – making a similar product for the American market. The US based plant incorporates an Aero-Mechanical Conveyor as the means of transferring the ingredients from the big bag discharger to the reactor. Although, we manufacture Aero-Mechanical Conveyors, the design team at Innospec decided that one of our Flexible Screw Conveyors would be the better option. This was on the basis that it helped reduce the overall cost of the new plant – given that their budget was particularly tight. As Cathy Podevyn, our Managing Director at Spiroflow confirms, “Flexible Screw Conveyors are usually the lowest cost reliable means of conveying dry bulk solids. Their low cost belies their effectiveness!”

Innospec chose to work with us because of their positive experience with other ‘Spiroflow’ equipment, including Flexible Screw Conveyors that have already been working for 12 years, or so, on the Ellesmere Port site. Their primary concern about going for the lower cost option Flexible Screw Conveyor, rather than the Aero-Mechanical Conveyor used in the USA, was degradation of the main ingredient – which has to retain its flake format for optimum performance in the reactor vessel. What convinced Corporate Projects Manager, Bill Swift, that the Flexible Screw Conveyor would do the job was the day he spent in the Spiroflow test centre putting a Flexible Screw Conveyor through its paces on his product. As Bill Swift comments, “We are well satisfied with our ‘Spiroflow’ Big Bag Discharger and although we chose the lower cost Flexible Screw Conveyor it has proven to be very efficient”.

As with many chemical installations, the plant at Innospec is designated as a hazardous zone and in this case it is rated to European gas zone 2 and dust zone 22. To save further cost, it was decided to mount the main control panel remotely on the outside of the building with a zone rated local control panel adjacent to the Big Bag Discharger. We had no difficulty in meeting Innospec’s requirements as we are well versed in the requirements of the European explosive atmosphere regulations. All of our control panels are designed and manufactured in house. The whole of the Discharger is earth-bonded and the Flexible Screw Conveyor has an antistatic conveying tube.

Bill Swift decided that simplicity was the best option when it came to connecting the Flexible Screw Conveyor to the reactor. Given that the reactor reaches temperatures in excess of 300OC, rather than use a complicated double butterfly arrangement with a purged spool piece between, the flexible connection from the conveyor to the reactor is simply disconnected and reconnected as required so that the reactor inlet can be closed by a pressure tight hatch once it has been charged.

Innospec is a global specialty chemicals company with almost 1,000 employees in 23 countries. Innospec divides its operations into three distinct business areas: Fuel Specialties, Active Chemicals, and Octane Additives. Together, the three businesses manufacture and supply a wide range of specialty chemicals to markets in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific. Innospec’s Fuel Specialties business specializes in manufacturing and supplying the fuel additives that help improve fuel efficiency, boost engine performance and reduce harmful emissions. Innospec’s Active Chemicals business includes a range of companies that produce specialty chemicals used in the manufacture of such items as personal care products, household detergents and crop protection chemicals as well as in the plastics, paper, metal plating and oil industries. Innospec’s Octane Additives business is the world’s only producer of tetra ethyl lead. This product is the ‘anti-knock’ compound used to increase the octane rating of petrol used in vehicles that do not have catalytic converters. At Ellesmere Port there are almost 300 employees and the site produces around 12,000 tonnes of chemical products a year but this figure is growing rapidly as Innospec continues its ongoing quest to develop new products for new applications. To learn more about Innospec and their products and services, visit their website www.innospecinc.com.