WACKER’s integrated production system is its greatest strength. The WACKER Group’s key competitive advantages include the highly integrated material loops at its major production sites in Burghausen, Nünchritz and Zhangjiagang. Basically, integrated production involves using the byproducts from one stage as starting materials for making other products. The necessary auxiliaries, such as silanes, are recycled in a closed loop and we utilize waste heat from one process in other chemical processes. The result is lower specific production costs (costs per net production volume) compared to open production processes. Integrated production allows us to lower energy and resource consumption, use raw materials more efficiently and, at the same time, integrate environmental protection measures into production processes. Through our integrated production sites, we create synergies in the supply of raw materials and energy.
Our integrated production system is primarily based on salt, silicon and ethylene as starting materials. In our integrated processes, we optimize material efficiency by purifying byproducts and reusing them or making them available for external use. Examples:
- In our integrated ethylene production system, we use ethylene to obtain organic intermediates, which we then turn into polymer dispersions and dispersible polymer powders.
- Our integrated silicon production system operates along similar lines. Although comprising only a small number of raw materials – silicon, methanol and salt (sodium chloride) – this system enables us to manufacture over 2,800 different silicone products, as well as pyrogenic silica and polysilicon.
A further focus of our integrated production is to minimize hydrogen chloride consumption. Hydrogen chloride is an essential auxiliary deployed in the production of reactive intermediates from energy-poor natural materials. We then use these intermediates to make our end products. Hydrogen chloride production requires a lot of energy. In our integrated material loop, we recover both hydrogen chloride and some of the energy in the form of heating steam during the conversion of the chlorine-containing intermediates to chlorine-free end products (such as hyperpure silicon or pyrogenic silica). We then return the recovered hydrogen chloride to the production loop and reuse it. This closed material loop reduces emissions and, due to lower raw-material consumption, shipment journeys.
For over 12 years, we have been using a chlor-alkali membrane process to supply chlorine, hydrogen, caustic soda and hydrogen chloride as starting materials to our Burghausen site. Since 2000, this membrane electrolysis has enabled us to stop using mercury-based chlorine electrolysis and simultaneously cut energy consumption by around 25 percent per year. Thus, WACKER has fulfilled the chemical industry’s voluntary commitment to phase out mercury-based processes by 2020 well ahead of schedule.
Material Flows in WACKER’s Integrated Hydrogen Chloride (HCl) System
Examples of savings potential for resources through our integrated production system:
- We recycle 97 percent of the hydrogen chloride that we use in the production loops at our Burghausen and Nünchritz sites.
- In 2012, our integrated production system in Burghausen prevented the emission of 742,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalents. Due to this high reutilization rate, less fresh hydrogen chloride needs to be generated and, consequently, there are savings in the transportation of raw materials and in energy consumption.
- 44 percent of the heat used by Burghausen stems from the site’s integrated heat-utilization system.
We optimized the hydrogen loops in our integrated polysilicon production system and thus significantly lowered the consumption of hydrogen extracted from natural gas. This has led to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 22,000 metric tons per year compared to 2010.
Zhangjiagang in China joins our German plants in Burghausen (Bavaria) and Nünchritz (Saxony) as our third major integrated production site. We rely on state-of-the-art environmental technology in China, too, where we operate facilities according to stringent international EH&S standards.
Integrated Production System in China
In partnership with Dow Corning Corporation, we opened the second phase of our joint pyrogenic silica plant in Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu province, China, in 2011. This plant, together with a siloxane facility, forms the heart of the integrated silicone production site developed by WACKER and Dow Corning.
In our state-of-the-art manufacturing processes, we use raw materials efficiently and attempt to procure them locally to the greatest possible degree. When building these plants, we took account of energy-saving design and cutting-edge environmental-protection technology. Integrated production plays an important role in helping to reduce emissions and to manage logistics and transportation efficiently.