Not far away in Units 42 to 44, a total of 47 different adhesives and binding agents are produced in what is known as the polymerization process. This is where the largest part of the steam produced by the CHP modules is used. To initiate the chemical reaction for polymerization, the raw materials first have to be heated by means of steam. In the case of adhesives, for instance, the production process starts with the creation of a preparatory solution consisting of water, defoamer and polyvinyl alcohol in a stainless steel container. When ready, the preparatory solution is pumped into a double-walled reactor where it is heated to the specified starting temperature before the additives and raw materials required for the reaction are introduced. Essentially, it is a case of turning monomers (small, highly reactive molecules) into polymers, i.e. long-chain compounds that ultimately form the basis for the adhesive. The reaction itself is exothermic, which means it releases energy. Therefore, the end product has to be cooled again afterwards, which is where the cooling function of the energy plant comes in. All in all, it takes around five to eight hours from the start of the process to completion of polymerization.
Europe's biggest washing machine
The new high-pressure steam boiler system installed in the energy station directly adjacent to the two mtu
CHP modules, and supplied partly by recovered heat from their exhausts, can produce up to 3,500 kg of steam an hour. A smaller boiler system with a capacity of 1,000 kg/h is on standby for backup in an emergency. The old and now decommissioned steam generator managed only 2,000 kg/h – too little for present production at Follmann, which now demands 2,500 kg/h at peak periods. The second steam consumer alongside the polymerization reactors is a cleaning plant – "the biggest washing machine in Europe" according to Ralf Lücke. Here the steam is used to heat a 3-m high washer drum that restores the used production containers and receptacles to gleaming cleanliness using a cleaning solution. "The two heat and power plants help to ensure that the steam we need is always available," recounts Lücke, who has been with the company since 1996. "The new system allows us to produce better-quality steam, which ultimately increases the efficiency of the production processes."