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Efficient DIABON® plate heat exchangers give Belgium fertilizer plant "license to operate"

An old-fashioned open cooling system threatened to leave Tessenderlo Chemie’s potassium sulphate fertilizer plant in Ham, Belgium with hydrochloride-acid-contaminated waste streams that would put the facility’s profitability at risk.

DATE 2015-02-27

Until 2011, the flue gas exiting a number of Tessenderlo Chemie’s potassium sulphate furnaces was cooled in four absorption towers by running water over graphite-coated tubes to produce a commercially viable concentration of hydrochloric acid (HCI). However, the inefficient system left waste streams containing traces of HCI as well as air and other flue gases. The company was able to reuse these waste streams at their other facilities until a reorganization plan promised to put an end to the practice within four years.

“Installing Alfa Laval’s DIABON heat exchangers quite literally gave us a license to continuing operating,” says Ben Bettens, process engineer, Tessenderlo Chemie. “We needed an efficient system in order to eliminate the waste stream from our absorption towers. Otherwise the high cost of disposing of them would threaten the very existence of the plant.”


“Installing Alfa Laval’s DIABON heat exchangers quite literally gave us a license to continuing operating,” says Ben Bettens, process engineer, Tessenderlo Chemie. “We needed an efficient system in order to eliminate the waste stream from our absorption towers. Otherwise the high cost of disposing of them would threaten the very existence of the plant.”

Tessenderlo Chemie ordered a total of 16 DIABON graphite plate heat exchangers to replace open coolers producing high-concentration HCI and an additional 5 to upgrade waste streams. The DIABON plate heat exchangers offer the cooling capacity needed to produce high-quality HCI without leaving an expensive-to-dispose-of waste stream.

Alfa Laval DIABON® plate heat exchangers combine the high-efficiency heat transfer benefits of convention-al plate heat ex-changers with the exceptional corrosion resistance of graphite material. This makes Alfa Laval DIABON plate heat exchangers ideal for duties in which metallic plates with low corrosion resistance cannot live up to service life requirements, and where the heat transfer efficiency of heat exchangers that use materials such as glass and Teflon® is unacceptably low.

 DIABON plate heat exchangers    

  • No HCI waste streams, so no crippling disposal costs.
  • Higher thermal performance
  • Environment protection: no open system
  • Less downtime: fewer cleaning hours and in many cases one heat exchanger can be taken out of service for cleaning without interrupting production.
  • OPEX decrease: old coolers consisted of 100 graphite tubes, 20% had to be replaced every year = 5,000 euros per tube
  • Easy cleaning with CIP
The problem was complicated by the highly corrosive nature of hydro-chloric acid – only Alfa Laval had the material we needed.

Ben Bettens
Process Engineer