CEPSA Upgrades Puente Mayorga LAB Plant

Spanish Linear Alkyl Benzene (LAB) Plant to be Converted from HF to Detal Process Technology

05.06.2019 -

Spanish petrochemicals producer CEPSA is upgrading its chemical plant in Puente Mayorga (Cadiz, Spain), making it the first linear alkyl benzene (LAB) facility in the world to replace hydrofluoric (HF) technology with the Detal process.

With an investment of €100 million, CEPSA plans to revitalize the plant, making it the first in Europe and the second in the world to use a novel cutting-edge fixed-bed Detal catalyst (the first plant to have this innovation was the company's Bécancour Canadian facility). The new plant will be completed in 2020.

The new technology developed by CEPSA and Universal Oil Product (UOP) will allow production of all commercial LAB grades (high and low 2-phenyl) in the same installation, with total flexibility, depending on the demand. This versatility allows the company to meet the specific demands of each client. Detal technology, in addition to improving the quality of the product, will increase the efficiency of the plant and reduce its emissions, since it requires lower consumption of natural gas and electricity.

Furthermore, the digital transformation programs designed by the company will also be installed. The YET (Yield, Energy and Throughput) system, an artificial intelligence program and the application of Industry 4.0 technologies (machine learning, big data and advanced analytics), will optimize processes and improve the plant's energy efficiency.

This process will also allow the plant’s LAB production capacity to increase by 50,000 tons (a 25% increase), with the aim of supplying the growing consumption of emerging economies in Africa. The company estimates that between now and 2035, the demand for LAB in these countries will grow by 5% annually.

Salvador García Claros, Director of Development and Innovation of the chemical area of CEPSA, pointed out: "We are world leaders in both the production of LAB and the development of the best technology to produce it, used in more than 80% of the new plants that are built worldwide. Our experience and leadership have now led us to be the first to install Detal technology in a plant built for HF.”

LAB is the precursor to linear alkylbenzene sulfonate (LAS), the world's most widely used biodegradable surfactant in laundry detergents. Through a process of sulfonation it is transformed into LABSA, and through its neutralization to LAS. Launched more than half a century ago, its excellent properties make LAS a necessary ingredient both in traditional detergent formats (powder or detergent bars) and in more sophisticated products (single-dose capsules or high-concentration liquid detergents).