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May 14, 2008

BASF starts up new nitric-acid plant

Gerald Ondrey

BASF S.E. (Ludwigshafen, Germany; has started operating a new plant for the production of nitric acid at its Antwerp Verbund site. Nitric acid is one of the most important inorganic intermediates, and the plant's output will be used mainly to manufacture polyurethane. The facility has a production capacity of 500,000 m.t./yr —  one of the world's largest.

This is the company’s first nitric acid plant built using exclusively BASF technology, in other words, all the engineering, procurement and assembly expertise was supplied by BASF. “We decided to build the plant with our own resources to save costs. But another benefit for us is the gain in know-how. I am convinced that this will provide a long-term strategic advantage for BASF,” explains Dr. Heinz-Josef Kneuper, project leader and technology manager for nitric acid in the Regional Inorganic Chemicals Business Unit, Europe.
At the new Antwerp complex, nitric acid can be produced in a concentration of 68%, which is the concentration used mainly in polyurethane chemistry to synthesize the isocyanates MDI and TDI. The plant is fully automated with ultramodern process control systems and is equipped with a high efficiency system to remove nitrogen oxide from waste gases. This new plant will be  replacing a system that is more than 40 years old, which means that the yield will also be increasing significantly, says BASF.

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