Built in 1940 to pressurize hydrogen, its successor models now safeguard the supply of hydrogen for the entire Chemical Park Marl. The iron behemoth weighing some 15 metric tons is therefore also “a symbol of the collaboration among the companies at the site and between the Marl and Gelsenkirchen-Scholven sites,” explained Dr. Jan Sage, head of NLA operations (German abbreviation for networks/air separation/filling station) at Energy & Utilities (EU) in Evonik’s Technology & Infrastructure (TI) segment.
Like the site as a whole, the machine is a piece of solid workmanship. Had a new compressor park not been put into operation in Building 593 ten years ago, control rooms been merged, and all nine large “oldies” been decommissioned as a result, it could still be doing its job. At the time, the plant’s employees proposed that No. 5465 be restored and preserved as an ideal complement to other memorabilia on the premises. What is more, the condition it was in would also make it interesting for a technology museum, as foreman Detlef Homann reported. Especially as the piston processor “HD-H2 compressor 6 Type 1LG500-3G” manufactured by Sürth-Maschinenfabrik was well-known tried-and-tested technology.
It is no wonder that the idea soon found support at Evonik and also the necessary sponsors in the Energy & Utilities (EU) in Evonik’s Technology & Infrastructure (TI) segment and business line Performance Intermediates of Evonik Performance Materials GmbH. “Our compressor is still ‘state of the art’ and yet a machine with which some of our employees fondly remember working,” Sage said. Delivered on June 7, 1940, it compressed hydrogen to over 300 bar in Building 442 in the Chemical Park Marl until April 2009 in much the same way as an oversized air pump. The hydrogen was generated as a by-product from the electric arc and the coke oven gas procured via pipeline from Scholven. The purified hydrogen was then compressed to over 300 bar and used in an intermediate step to produce butadiene—along with styrene a key component in the production of the synthetic rubber BUNA. The gas was also sent back to Scholven via pipeline—the hydrogenation plants made fuel out of coal. A small cylinder filling station for hydrogen was added in the 1950s.
While the gas still comes from the electric arc and hydrogenous waste gas, the steam reformer, a large-scale hydrogen generator that produces hydrogen from natural gas, was put into operation in the 1990s. The steam reformer and the related hydrogen business at the site are operated by the Performance Intermediates business line. Seven old compressors that were no longer in use were replaced in 2008 by three state-of-the-art Borsig high-performance piston compressors with the same capacity. This necessitated a considerable financial outlay. Sophisticated control technology permits almost fully automated operation from the central control room. Technical improvements can be seen, for example, in the speed of the equipment, which has increased by a factor of four.
Evonik is one of the world leaders in specialty chemicals. The focus on more specialty businesses, customer-oriented innovative prowess and a trustful and performance-oriented corporate culture form the heart of Evonik’s corporate strategy. They are the lever for profitable growth and a sustained increase in the value of the company. Evonik benefits specifically from its customer proximity and leading market positions. Evonik is active in over 100 countries around the world with more than 36,000 employees. In fiscal 2018, the enterprise generated sales of €15 billion and an operating profit (adjusted EBITDA) of €2.6 billion.
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