On 19 August, 2009, U.S.-based specialty chemicals company, Solutia Inc., announced that it is supplying Therminol® VP-1 synthetic heat transfer fluid to a new 470 MW hybrid solar plant in Ain-Ben-Mathar, Morocco and a 170 MW hybrid solar plant in Hassi R’Mel, Algeria.

Although this was the latest in a number of significant projects that Solutia has announced in 2009 to supply solar plants globally, the chemical industry still remains at the heart of the company’s heat transfer fluid activities. “It is very exciting that we are seeing such a rapid growth in alternative energy projects such as power generation from concentrating solar power, photovoltaic solar modules and waste heat recovery utilizing organic Rankine cycle technology. All of these technologies have the need for synthetic organic heat transfer fluids such as Therminol heat transfer fluid. However, it is important to remember that chemical industries such as plastics, polymers, and petrochemicals still represent an important and vital part of our heat transfer fluid market,” said Mr. Richard Altice, Vice President, Commercial Services for Solutia Technical Specialties.

One of the key drivers behind Solutia’s chemical industry activities is its TLC Total Lifecycle Care® program which is provided at no additional cost to its customers before, during and after the sale. This is a complete program of products and services from Solutia that is designed to help keep a heat transfer system in top operating condition through its entire lifecycle. Key features of this “cradle to grave” approach include: system design support, start-up assistance, 24/7 access to technically trained experts, on-site training, comprehensive sample analytical support, flush and refill fluids – all features available globally – and a fluid return program in North America.

Before the sale:

Highlighting the importance of system design, Mr. Ravi Prakash, Market Development Manager for Solutia Specialty Fluids says, “We have worked with thousands of satisfied customers worldwide for many, many years. While we realize that the typical components of heat transfer systems are often similar, each system is still unique and requires care and attention since the differences may be in the details -- the same details that may get overlooked. The benefits from working with an experienced heat transfer fluid technical services team in the project design phase are clear. The result of beginning with a well designed system is safer operation, more efficient start-ups, better on stream time, and requires less energy and less heat transfer fluid in the long term.” 1

During the sale:

Highlighting the importance of having access to a provider of strong technical services, take for example the experiences of Mexichem (formerly Grupo Primex) in Altamira, Mexico, a major manufacturer of PVC resins, phthalic anhydride, plasticizers and PVC compounds.2 As of 2005, the company had operated two parallel heat transfer systems that presented a unique opportunity for comparisons to be made between different products.  

Therminol 66 heat transfer fluid had supported one of these systems for more than 15 years. Therminol 66, one of the world’s most popular high temperature liquid phase heat transfer fluid, is suitable for operation up to 650 °F (345 °C) and pumpable to 27 °F (-3 °C). A diaryl alkyl based product, rated to 660 °F (350 °C), had been utilized in the other system over the past several years.

According to Mexichem, the system supported by Therminol 66 has performed without incident and continues to do so today. However, after just three years, the system utilizing the alternate heat transfer fluid began to demonstrate a decline in performance.

Mr. Francisco Nava, production manager for Mexichem, described the escalating problems. “First we experienced pluggage in our instrument tubing. Soon after, we observed damage to the mechanical seals and problems began occurring in the heat transfer process. As a result, we were experiencing losses in distillation efficiency, increases in system vapor pressures, increased unplanned downtime, and impacts to our finished product quality.”

Mexichem turned to the technical support team at Solutia for a complimentary fluid analysis, part of the TLC Total Lifecycle Care program. According to the analysis completed by Solutia’s team, the non-Solutia fluid was degrading rapidly, reducing its ability to operate efficiently. In fact, the degradation products were found to be more than half of the fluid composition and the fluid was forming precipitates of crystalline solids under certain conditions.

“Because the alternate heat transfer fluid wasn’t doing a good job, our pump seals were failing and we were losing yield. At the same time, our system utilizing Therminol 66® heat transfer fluid was operating smoothly. The decision to switch to Therminol 66 heat transfer fluid in the other system was clear,” said Mr. Nava. Later that year, the system was switched to Therminol 66 heat transfer fluid and has operated without incident ever since.

After the sale

Highlighting the importance of service after the sale, take for example the experiences of a major plastics manufacturer in the mid-west United States. For many years this company used Therminol 66 heat transfer fluid for providing heat to their manufacturing process. In mid-2004, the manufacturer’s heat transfer system began to experience increased fluid make-up rates. “This signaled problems beyond our heat transfer fluid,” said the senior process engineer responsible for the Therminol system. “We were most concerned with the prospect of increased downtime in the case that we didn’t pass our state inspection.” Each year the state inspects this manufacturer’s system to ensure that it is operating safely. These routine inspections can cause the plant to halt operation for one to two weeks. If a problem is found, a follow-up inspection can be scheduled, causing further lost production time and profit. “Our product is in high demand and our customers depend on us to provide shipments on a consistent basis. Shutting down unexpectedly for additional inspections can’t happen,” added the engineer. Solutia’s Therminol heat transfer fluid specialists stepped in immediately to help determine the underlying cause. According to the plant engineer, “The Solutia team visited the site multiple times, analyzing and researching data. Having archived data of our fluid condition was essential in showing that we had control of the situation and were improving the system performance. During their onsite visits, I was impressed with how the Solutia team was most concerned with making sure our engineers knew how the system operated. They were focused on providing us with long-term solutions rather than selling us more fluid.” Together, the manufacturer and Solutia identified the cause of the problem – ultimately unrelated to the fluid and corrected with a minor operational change. This avoided lost production time, saved over $250,000/year in fluid make-up and avoided increasing the state inspection frequency.3

Through its TLC Total Lifecycle Care® program of products and services, Solutia is well positioned and committed to serve as a reliable partner to chemical manufacturers throughout the world for many years to come.

1        “Alternative Energy Projects & Therminol® Technical Services: A Powerful Combination,” Solutia Publication #Pub# 7239749.
2        “Parallel Systems, Contrasting Results. Therminol® 66 Delivers Superior Performance for Grupo Primex” Solutia Publication
3        “MyTherminol & Total Lifecycle Care®: A Winning Combination” Solutia Publication.

® Therminol and TLC Total Lifecycle Care are trademarks of Solutia Inc. As used herein, ® denotes registered trademark status in the U.S. only.
© Solutia Inc. 2009. All rights reserved.