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Orlen Unipetrol to expand ethylene capacity with new steam cracking unit

By Mary Page Bailey |

The ORLEN Unipetrol Group (Prague) has announced plans to increase the capacity of its petrochemical operations. Following the completion of a brand-new polyethylene unit (PE3) to produce the cutting-edge high-density polyethylene, the Group now plans to raise steam cracker yields. In addition to a range of other chemical products, the cracker unit is a primary source of hydrocarbons for the subsequent manufacture of polyethylene and polypropylene. The new, eleventh steam cracker furnace will be commissioned in 2022, and will involve an investment of around CZK 700 million (around $32 million). It will be built by Technip Energies (Paris).  The steam cracker is located in ORLEN Unipetrol’s production plant in Záluží near Litvínov, the largest chemical facility in the Czech Republic.

“The petrochemical segment already represents a third of our production and more than half of our incomes. Its importance will continue to grow in the coming decades, as global demand for petrochemical products grows, too,” says Tomasz Wiatrak, CEO of the ORLEN Unipetrol Group, adding: “We want to increase the total petrochemical production from 0.9 million to 1.4 million tonnes a year by 2030. We need to remove the existing capacity limitations of the steam cracker’s pyrolysis section, the heart of our petrochemical segment, to have sufficient space for the planned production increase.” 

The ORLEN Unipetrol Group makes a massive investment in the petrochemical part of its operations. Last year, it commissioned a new polyethylene unit, PE3, to produce cutting-edge high-density polyethylene for CZK 10 billion. It plans to launch another unit for almost CZK 1 billion at the end of 2022. It will manufacture a new product, dicyclopentadiene (DCPD), making ORLEN Unipetrol one of the four largest manufacturers in Europe.

The project of the construction of the steam cracker’s eleventh furnace in Litvínov includes the construction based on the proprietary SMK™ coil technology in a triple-lane arrangement in the radiation chamber heated with a combination of large-scale vortex burners (LSV) and side wall burners (TSWB). They represent the best possible technologies in terms of low NOx production. This project follows the successful delivery and start-up of four cracking furnaces for the same complex in 2016. 

Stan Knez, Chief Technology Officer of Technip Energies commented: “We are very pleased that ORLEN Unipetrol has again selected the SMKTM technology of Technip Energies for this new furnace. With more than 145 installations around the world, this technology is recognised for giving clients reliable and flexible solutions to improve operational efficiency and reduce emissions.” 

The complex was commissioned in 1979. It comprises ten cracking furnaces, and its production capacity was 435,000 tons of gaseous hydrocarbons a year. In 2000, its annual capacity was increased to 485,000 tons of ethylene. Following the 2007 modernization, the unit’s yearly capacity rose to 545,000 tons of ethylene. The 2016 refurbishment project involved the construction of four new pyrolysis furnaces. The current construction of the eleventh furnace will allow expanding the steam cracker’s production capacity up to 585,000 tons of ethylene a year in the future.

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