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Sulphuric Acid on the WebTM Technical Manual DKL Engineering, Inc.

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Sulphuric Acid Plant Specifications

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Acid Plant Database  August 26, 2021

Owner Ineos Fluor Limited

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Location Merseyside Operations
PO Box 9 Runcorn
WA7 4JE United Kingdom
Background Formerly ICI Ltd. - Mond Division
Website www.ineos.com
Plant Merseyside Operations
Coordinates 53° 18' 53" N,  2° 44' 3" W
Type of Plant Sulphur Burner
Gas Source Elemental Sulphur
Plant Capacity ~900 MTPD(1) (775 MTPD)
Status Shutdown 2021
Year Built 1971
Technology Outotec (Lurgi)
Contractor Outotec (Lurgi)
Remarks Ultrapure sulphuric acid produced on site
- Production: 11,000 MTPA
- Year Built: 2006
Other Products: 96% H2SO4, 98% H2SO4, 20% Oleum, Liquid SO2, Liquid SO3, Dilutes (77% H2SO4), PS3

Hydrogen Explosion Incident
- December 2010
- Economizer tube bundle failure leading to rapid corrosion and hydrogen generation
- Hydrogen collected at the top of the inter absorber where the explosion took place
- Plant shutdown for 58 days

The construction of the new sulphuric acid converter at INEOS faced many challenges.  The new converter had to be constructed under absolute dry conditions with access available for materials to be craned in.  The plant was to remain operational whilst works took place, posing challenges with stability as the structure could not be tied to any adjacent structures or increased in any great width to prevent overturning.  The solution consisted of a 26m high, free standing, fully clad scaffold with a removable roof.  Any stability that would be gained from the roof was lost.  To enable the structure to stay rigid, a radial shape with kentledge bays was designed.  Throughout the process timing was critical as the plant was to be temporarily shut down at a pre-determined time for the transfer of converters.  
General -


(1) David Ash, "Hydrogen Incident December 2010", Sulphur 2014

April 22, 2021 - The UK’s sulphuric acid market is in disarray in the wake of international chemicals major INEOS’ decision to permanently close its Runcorn sulphuric acid plant, according to market sources this week.  INEOS announced the formal closure of its sulphur chemicals unit in the UK’s northwest in late March; permanently ending the company’s domestic sulphuric acid production.  In a letter to customers, INEOS, which trades from Runcorn under the name INOVYN, said the decision signalled its “withdrawal from the UK sulphur chemicals market”, following a detailed management review of the business.  Runcorn suffered an unplanned outage in third-party power supplies in October 2020, resulting in the sulphur chemicals plant and attached sulphur burner going offline.  During a controlled restart, INEOS identified that several critical components had suffered damage.  Despite “significant investment”, INEOS concluded it would not be possible to restart the unit for a further 18-24 months, heavily curtailing INOVYN’s ability to supply UK customers.  “Regrettably, the company is therefore left with no option but to keep the plant offline and effect a permanent closure of the sulphur chemicals business,” INEOS concluded.  In the letter, INEOS said it will “work with customers to assist in the transition to alternative supplies”.  However, the departure of INEOS’ sulphur operations from the UK has left a gaping hole in supply for the vital chemical, and downstream customers “in a panic; trying everything to find product,” according to a source at a UK-based chemicals producer and acid distributor.  “We’ve heard INEOS’ supply will end in April. That’s it. Nothing from then,” the source adds.

“We’ve seen prompt purchase tenders for acid issued for delivery within the month. We’re helping one or two customers, and [other UK acid distributors] are doing the same, but there’s no spot available anywhere.”  Acid producers in northwest Europe, including large-volume base metal smelting majors, have also been approached by UK buyers desperate for tonnes; as have those smelters’ customers, some of whom have pondered selling their own contracted tonnes into the UK via road and ferry.  A source at INEOS confirmed the company will no longer supply acid past the end of April.  It was heard the company has attempted to source acid from mainland Europe, but was unable to secure cargoes.  FOB export prices from northwest Europe are at a two-year high, and what spot material can be found has instead been sent to destinations in Latin America, where netbacks on sales into Brazil, Chile, and Argentina are higher.  Asian spot acid availability is similarly limited, making imports from large-volume producers in South Korea or Japan unworkable.


“It’s a very difficult situation,” a Swiss acid trader says of the UK market, adding: “At the same time, who is to blame when for years traders told [UK market players] that only relying on domestic [production] could be an issue one day when something unexpected happens?”  Although the UK’s acid-consuming industries - including water treatment, chemical, and fertilizer production - were not completely reliant on INEOS’ operations at Runcorn, the plant was the country’s main domestic source of sulphuric acid production capacity.  The UK’s port infrastructure is not built for large-volume acid imports, with most suitable berths having tank space for only approximately 5,000-8,000 tonnes at a time.  “What [UK market players] have gained on price differentials versus imports in the last 10 years has disappeared in two months on a force majeure,” the trader adds.  “In the short term, management tend to forget the relationship between price and security of supply. The sad thing is that even a case like this will most likely not change the mindset in future years.”  Another UK-based acid player adds: “There’s nowhere to go and get some product for Q2. Imports won’t be able to cover the shortfall, leaving the UK bottlenecked. The sea tanks are too small. You need 30,000 or 40,000 tonnes [of tank space], and a strategic reserve, so you always have some [acid].”  In the long-term there is a possibility “someone might build a tank big enough” to support the UK sulphuric acid market, the latter source concludes.

July 17, 2012 - Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. announced today that it has been awarded a design and fabrication contract by INEOS Enterprises Limited for two gas-gas heat exchangers to be installed in a sulfuric acid plant at its Runcorn, Cheshire site in the United Kingdom.  Officials did not disclose the contract value.


May 5, 2005 - INEOS Enterprises has today announced a major investment in a new plant to produce 11,000 te/yr of ultra-pure sulphuric acid. The state-of-the art facility will be built at INEOS Enterprisess sulphur chemicals manufacturing facility in Runcorn, Cheshire.  This multi-million pound investment will be the platform for growth in supplying the European semi-conductor and pharmaceutical industries and will maintain continuity of supply to existing customers.  In January of this year, INEOS Enterprises purchased Rhodias ultra-pure sulphuric acid business following Rhodias decision to cease manufacturing at Staveley, Derbyshire. INEOS Enterprises is currently serving customers with product that is being toll manufactured at the Staveley site.  INEOS Enterprisess new plant is scheduled to come on stream in early 2006 and is designed to meet the exacting product quality requirements of the semi-conductor industry.  Chris Tane, CEO for INEOS Enterprises comments: "This is a major investment that underlines our commitment to supply the semi-conductor industry with the very high quality products they require at very competitive prices. By building our new plant while the existing plant at Staveley continues to operate, we will also be able to ensure continuity of supply for all of our customers.”

MTPD - Metric Tonne per Day           STPD - Short Ton per Day
MTPA - Metric Tonne per Annum      STPA - Short Ton per Annum
SA - Single Absorption
DA - Double Absorption

* Coordinates can be used to locate plant on Google Earth