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Friday, 3 February 2017

New chemistry will rule the market dynamics

In an interview, Mark Eyers, Director, Global Sales & Marketing, Water & Oil Performance Additives, Italmatch Chemicals with Chemical Today magazine talks at length about the global water treatment market and the latest trends that are ruling the business. 
By Shivani Mody
Company’s journey of water & oil performance additives business.
About 3 years ago Italmatch entered into the water business with the acquisition of the Dequest phosphonates business from Thermphos. Since then we have grown via external development like the acquisition of Naples based GRS chemicals in 2014, which was made to expand Italmatch’s manufacturing capabilities of  low  and high molecular weight polymers. In 2016, we acquired Solvay's desalination, phosphonates and phosphonic acid-based water additives business. We also acquired North America’s Compass Chemical to have a manufacturing position and enlarged client base in that region. Hence, we have been constantly expanding and broadening our business line in order to establish ourselves as a one stop shop for raw material and chemical solutions provider for the global water markets. We not only offer antiscalants, dispersants, chelants but also phase separation aids, corrosion inhibitors, fuel additives and biocides.
Emphasis towards R&D and innovation.
Today’s industrial water and process treatment and oil and gas markets are looking for chemical solutions which are effective under increasingly challenging operating conditions, such as temperature, pressure and water chemistry, and which also have an improved sustainability and toxicological profile.
A year ago, we created a Global Technical Centre of Expertise for Water in Arese, Milan in order to boost growth via internal technology development. Italmatch’s research activities focus on the development of new molecules – both LMW water soluble polymers- and organo-phosphonate based antiscalants, dispersants & chelants – and finding synergies between the new chemistries and existing ones.
Much focus has been put on the laboratory testing of new ‘in-house developed’ ‘biodegradable phosphonates’ / polymer based chemistries for scale control at > ~ 200°C, which is typical of deep oil and gas wells and geothermal applications. The selected anti-scalants have an improved environmental and sustainability profile vs traditional chemistries and can improve operations, reduce operational costs and maximise production in oil & gas applications.
In geothermal applications, by contrast, the efficiency of the whole process is limited by the extent to which the potential operational temperature range can be expanded. For example, many geothermal plants suffer from stibnite or silica scaling problems at the cold stage. Effective silica antiscalants preventing scale formation at low temperatures allow the operator to save a relevant part of the heat generated, which would otherwise have been used to keep the temperatures at higher level in order to prevent the formation of these scale deposits.
Recently we also developed a new series of patented acrylamide-free HMW polymers which will be used as next generation phase separation agents in industrial processes. All HMW polymers are currently used as flocculating agents in waste water treatment applications, retention / drainage agents in paper mills, agents for clari-flocculation in water purification or as dewatering agents are polyacrylamide-based and contain residual acrylamide monomers having not favourable toxicological profile.
Research breakthrough in the development of new cost-effective biodegradable antiscalant products effective under extreme temperature process conditions
The selection of the best in class scale inhibitor for these severe temperature conditions in eg oil and gas applications was based on multiple criteria.
First, the scale inhibitor must be able to deliver an excellent performance under the designed water conditions characterised by very high scaling tendencies for calcium carbonate and barium sulphate. New dynamic scale rigs have been installed in our laboratories in order to simulate the real field conditions as close and accurate as possible.
Secondly, the chemical structure of the inhibitor must be able to withstand the thermal stress without main modifications. Different techniques are being used to evaluate the temperature stability of the chemical structure. The performance of the scale inhibitor at the representative water conditions is being assessed as well after thermal ageing up to 250°C.
Thermal ageing can be performed in different ways, enabling us to simulate different real conditions in the laboratory. A product being thermally stressed ‘as is’ will simulate the situation when the chemical is blocked under high temperature conditions that are the typical consequence of pump shutdown, chemical line plugging, well workover etc.
On the other hand a product being thermally stressed at typical effective dosage levels in, for example, sea water, will simulate the treatment of a sea water that is re-injected into injector wells, or a scale inhibitor squeeze treatment performed offshore by using sea water.
In addition, the inhibitor must be at least ‘inherently biodegradable’ (ie. achieve > 20 percent biodegradability according to the OECD 306 test after 28 days). In order to meet this goal, a major research project was started several years ago to create phosphonated amino acid derivatives.
This has resulted in experimental grades, which are inherently biodegradable and have been successfully tested in this program. In these new molecules the traditional oil derived amine part has been replaced by amino acid very often generated by fermentation of waste streams, which also explains the improved sustainability profile of these molecules versus traditional phosphonates. One of the products is currently being used in industrial quantities under REACH PPORD regime in an Oil & Gas application.
Finally, easy traceability of the inhibitor active ingredient is always required in order to facilitate the on-site treatment monitoring and it is necessary in case of oil and gas squeeze applications. This is one of the reasons why phosphonates have been the preferred chemistries for such applications for many years
Increased focus on “ready to use” chemical solutions for desalination processes.
The installed desalination capacity has been doubling about every 5 years during the last 10 years and is expected to do so in the future.
2 processes are being used for desalination of seawater:
  • Membrane process (reverse osmosis)
  • Thermal process (MSF, MED or VC) (MSF: multiple stage flash / MED: multiple effect distillation / VC: vapour compression)
Due to the higher costs associated with the thermal processes in most world areas, newly build desalination capacity is based on reverse osmosis process ( the major exception is the Middle East where high pressure steam is abundantly available and the membrane process do still have a reputation of being less ‘robust’ from an operational perspective).
Italmatch has developed capabilities (product offerings & associated services) to deal directly with the desalination end-markets. To this effect, we have developed an in-house range of ready to use formulations (antiscalants, cleaners) for reverse osmosis and associated services (web based product selection software, autopsy services out of our technical centre in Milan)
Earlier this year we have acquired the Albrivap range (ready to use antiscalants and antifoams for thermal desalination) from Solvay, leap-frogging our position in the thermal desalination markets i.e. in the Middle East. Moreover, we are putting a lot of R&D efforts on developing more effective thermal desalination antiscalants for MED plants and for higher temperature MSF plants.
Read More: New chemistry will rule the market dynamics

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