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BASF Petronas Chemicals Sdn Bhd is putting together an huge petrochemical complex in Gebeng
in Malaysia. The complex will include a butanediol facility, an acrylic acid facility, a cracker facility
and a formic acid facility. Facilities are under construction for the manufacture of oxo alcohols
(250,000t/yr), phthalic acid, phthalic anhydride (40,000t/yr) and softening agents (100,000t/yr).
The entire project is said to cost Malaysian Ringgit 2.5 billion.
The acrylic acid plant in Gebeng came into production in March 2000. It will produce 160,000t/yr of
acrylic acid. The plant has achieved more than three million man hours without a lost time accident.
The company has decided to build a 100,000t/yr butanediol facility at Gebeng, in Malaysia's
eastern state of Pahang. It plans to begin butanediol production in 2002. The site is also being
used for oxo-alcohols and acrylic acid facilities.
In early 2000, it was announced that a new cracker could be constructed in Kuantan, in Malaysia.
The cracker plant will produce petrochemical products including ethylene, propylene and mixed
hydrocarbons, such as butane, for further downstream manufacturing activities. This will be a
useful addition to the entire complex in terms of economies of scale. Indeed, BASF, like many
chemical conglomerates, sees integration as a key way to achieve the cost saving necessary for
future competitiveness.
BASF Petronas also decided to build a formic acid facility at the Kuantan site. The complex
includes production facilities for acrylic acid, acrylic ester, oxo alcohols, phthalic anhydride and
softening agents and will gradually move to production from 2002. This will begin with 50,000t/yr of
formic acid. The formic acid production will complement existing BASF production in Germany,
and is intended primarily for the Far East market. BASF is also building a facility in China.
BASF Petronas Chemicals Sdn Bhd is a joint venture that is 60% owned by BASF and 40%
owned by Petronas. It was set up in 1997 to pursue petrochemical opportunities in Malaysia. The
joint venture is well placed to do this since it benefits from BASF's general expertise and Petronas'
local knowledge. Petronas is Malaysia's state-owned petroleum company. BASF is a large
German-based chemicals manufacturer currently expanding in the Far Eastern market, which is
expected to be the focus of future growth. As well as its joint venture with Petronas, BASF has its
own plants in Malaysia to manufacture polystyrene and a superplasticizer called tamol. Malaysia
also houses some BASF research activity. Petronas' 14,500 staff are engaged in oil exploration,
production and refining as well as petrochemical production.
Despite the Asian crisis, Petronas is pursuing a policy of aggressive expansion. This involves
attracting foreign investors to provide about half the money. The attainment of this goal is likely to
be adversely affected if Malaysia's exchange rate controls become a permanent feature, although
their temporary imposition does not seem to have had a damaging effect. In the case of the
integrated petrochemical plant at Kuantan, the entire plant might cost just under $1 billion.
Malaysia has so far been relatively untouched by the general crisis in East Asia. The government
imposed a series of exchange controls and anti-import measures, which have given the local
economy some shelter from the surrounding storm. Thus, the country has retained good GDP
growth, which is fast outpaced by the growth in chemicals industry investment. The Far East is
widely expected to see a strong upswing in chemicals demand as the regional economy recovers
from the effects of the Asian crisis.
The Malaysian Industrial Development Agency (MIDA) gives further incentives to develop in the
country. These include R&D grants, training grants and low rents. The centre of Malaysia's
petrochemical development is on the east coast of the Malaysian peninsula in Terengganu,
between Kertih and the Gebeng industrial development zones near Kuantan. The new complex is
right at the centre of this area. The 1997 crisis brought on a series of restrictions on foreign
investors. However, this does not appear to have affected the BASF/Petronas petrochemical

Technobell LONDON
The technology consists of 4 main phases:

oxidation (performed in reactor block),

recuperation of Phthalic Anhydride from reactor off-gases (performed in switch condensing
section) and
refining to commercial product (performed in distillation unit)
flaking and packing system
Any of Phthalic Anhydride production technologies include sub sections as:

Steam system energy recuperation

Waste gases incineration
Recovery of Maleic anhydride from off gases of switch condensers in quantity of about 4%
calculated on PA (optionally)

Process details
1. Process diagram

2. Process description

Phthalic anhydride (PA) unit consists of fixed bed reactor with a post-reactor, continuous gas
cooling, continuous product recovery by switch condensation, thermal treatment / refining, flaker
unit and incinerator system. It can also include waste water handling (depends on the customer

Chemical reaction
Main reaction:

Side reactions:
- O-xylene thermal oxidation
C8H10 + 7 O2 3 CO2 + CO + 4 H2O
- Maleic Anhydride formation (can be recovered as commercial product)
- O-toluic aldehide formation
- Phthalide formation
- Benzoic Acid formation
- Citronic acid formation
Due to released reaction heat the available technology results as energetically self sustaining and
energy can be exported.
Typical temperatures of reaction are between:
- Reactor (Salt) temperature:

350 400 C.

- Catalyst temperature (Hot Spot):

390 440 C

Reaction section
Liquid O-xylene is vaporized in vaporizer drum and then super-heated prior to mixing with
compressed air. The mixture then passes over a specified catalyst installed in tubular fix bed
reactor, cooled by eutectic salt mixture. There the chemical reaction takes place and o- xylene is
transformed mainly to PA. Heat released by chemical reaction is removed through melted salts to
heat exchanger where HP steam is produced. To increase the yield of reactor a post-reactor
system is installed where almost 90 % of by-products are removed.

Gas coolers and switch condensers

The post-reactor effluent containing PA is cooled down by the Gas Cooler generating HP steam
from condensate. PA is then routed to the switch condensers, which cool further the gases below
the PA solidification point by use of cold oil. When the condenser starts to be full with solid PA,
the reaction gas is connected to a spare and clean switch condenser. The oil in the by-passed
switch condenser is heated up with steam till PA is melted. The recovered liquid crude PA is
collected in the Crude PA tank.

Distillation/refining system
The distillation and refining system consists of two phases. In the first column light-ends content
of the crude PA are removed on the top (light cut acids), while the PA is routed to the second
column from the bottom in which the pure PA leaves on the top, while small amount of heavyends is collected from the bottom.

Off-gas arriving from the switch condensers contains flammable, environmental polluter materials
(like acids, CO) which are burned away with natural/fuel gas or oil while the generated heat can
be used for steam producing. Also the residue from the distillation (light and heavy cut) is
designed to incinerate.

Flaking and packing

The drum flaker is used to transform the molten pure PA product into a solid. In the continuous
process the product is transformed to easily processable flakes. The PA flakes are collected in a
special silo, then routed to an automatized packing system to be dosed and packed into 25 kgs
bags or 1/1,25 tons big bags.

Additional sections of the plant

- Steam system, with the task of careful energy transformation and recuperation,
- Oil system providing hot and cold oil for switch condenser operation,
- Demineralized water station

Guaranteed / expected values

Process values
This parameters depends on the catalyst used, however generally they turn around the following
O-xylene concentration in reactor feed

80 100 gr/Nm3

High reactor yield (depends on catalyst)

up to 115 wt% of o-xylene

Efficiency on SW. C.

up to 99,8 wt% of condensable PA

Distillation residues

2-3 wt%

Overall plant Yield (wt. %)*

112 (SOR**) - 110 (EOR***)

The catalyst life time

4 to 5 years.

* overall plant Yield ton of product Phthalic Anhydride / tons of feed o-xylene in percentage
** start of run / fresh catalyst
*** end of run / after 4 years of operation

Product characteristic



Expected Value

Guaranteed Value




max. 10

Colour Stability




max. 40

Melting Point



min. 131,3

Colour Stability




max. 60

Main advantages

High overall yield of Phthalic Anhydride product (up to 115 wt%).

High concentration of o-xylene in the feed gas results lower investment and operation costs.
Application of Post-reactor shows close to complete removal of un-desired by products and
minimized the burning of PA.
High efficiency of Switch condensers (up to 99,8%).
Techobell has its own technology for recovering the Maleic Anhydride content from PA process
Careful and inventive process design allows recovering as much as possible heat from the
reactor gases and produce MP and LP steam.
Technology design allows using any suitable commercially available oxidation catalyst.
Technobell offers continuous thermal treatment and distillation of Phthalic Anhydride. Such
design results in slightly smaller equipment requirements and greatly increased utilization of
uniform energy resources. There are no oscillations in export steam quantities, which regularly
occur in batch distillation systems.
The environment is protected by incineration of liquid and gas pollutants.
Fixed bed reactor(s) results flexible operation.