The move is estimated to cost about R20-million.
A Chemserve group company, Industrial Urethanes is establishing what amounts to a new factory with easy access of Durban harbor and the Island View petrochemical storage complex.
Industrial Urethanes technical and operations director Dr Peter Groome said that the revamped Umbogintwini plant will have two sections, one for flexible blends and polyol dehydration, and the other for isocyanates.
He added that good warehousing facilities are also available at Umbogintwini and a warehouse at the new Chempark Chloorkop head office will become the main storage centre for Gauteng.
“With Sebenza closed from the end of 2007 transportation of imported raw materials from Durban to Johannesburg has ceased and we now have a much more cost-effective and simple supply chain from Durban to Umbogintwini,” said Groome.
He added that the company no longer needed to hold very large quantities of hazardous chemicals for conversion on site, and would keep a week’s supply with just-in-time replenishment. He reported that there are a lot of synergies to be taken advantage of, and there are also opportunities for transport and logistical collaboration as well as cost-saving oppertunities with other companies in the Chemserve group. “Now a day’s notice is all that is required to get products from Umbogintwini up to Johannesburg,” he said.
A new production improvement plan has also been implemented to further raise productivity at Umbogintwini. Propylene oxide feed is being automated on the two current reactors that will speed up the process by three hours. The digester has been modified to run at higher temperatures, which will reduce process time by 30 minutes. As neutralisation will now take place at reaction temperature and the dehydration step will be eliminated, a further 2 hours 30 minutes will be saved to reduce the current batch time from 16 hours to 10 hours.
“This will increase annual production by more than 3 000 t, or about 600% of the original capacity,” said Dr Groome, “Of course it also means that Umbogintwini requires additional storage and two of the 60-t storage tanks at Sebenza have been relocated to Umbogintwini to act as blend storage tanks, and effectively double the overall storage capacity.”
There is considerable space available at the Umbogintwini site. Separate controls will be maintained for rigids and the programmable logic controls for each vessel will also be kept separate, as well as will drum filling. “The set up allows for rapid changes so we have great flexibility while at the same time reduced input costs,” added Dr Groome.
Finally, to accommodate the full transfer of the flexible polyurethanes business to Umbogintwini from Sebenza, two vessels of 2- and 8-t capacity respectively, are being installed.
Industrial Urethanes MD Mike Bee said that apart from the production capacity increase and the streamlining of logistics and supply chains, the transfer of flexibles production from Sebenza and its consolidation with rigid polyols production at Umbogintwini has many other benefits.
“This move is good for us in terms of legal compliances, standards certification, engineering and maintenance support, elimination of duplication and overall cost efficiencies,” said Bee.
Bee expects all of the plant modifications will be completed by April this year. “Sufficient stockholdings of flexibles product have been built up to ensure supply to all customers in the interim. The production of polyols for rigid foams at Umbogintwini will continue to operate during the upgrading and installation of new equipment,” concluded Bee.