Nouryon, first company to implement next generation membranes

July 2020

A new generation of ‘membrode’ membranes of Asahi-Kasei is expected to further push the boundaries of efficiency and reliability to produce two of the most common industrial raw materials – chlorine and caustic soda. Nouryon has started the first industrial-scale testing in Delfzijl, the Netherlands.

Chlorine is an essential product in our day-to-day life. Mostly known as a disinfectant, chlorine is also a key component in the chemical manufacture of thousands of products used every day, ranging from PVC for construction and epoxy-resins for windmills to ingredients for medicines and food.

What many people do not know is that chlorine, and its co-product caustic soda, are manufactured in a process called ‘electrolysis,’ which is one of the most energy-intensive industrial operations. Nouryon has greatly increased its use of renewable electricity used in electrolysis and uses highly efficient membrane technology to improve the energy efficiency of the manufacturing process. The company is also one of the first to use new ‘e-flex’ technology to automatically adjust production to swings in electricity supply – a key technology as the share of renewable energy continues to rise.

Nouryon, together with its Japanese partner Asahi Kasei, has now started to test a new generation of powerful membrode membranes at its chlorine plant in Delfzijl to improve operations. Membranes are used in combination with two electrodes to separate salt water (or brine) into its key elemental components of chlorine, caustic soda, and hydrogen. The new membrodes combine the electrodes and membranes into one component, further reducing any friction between the two surfaces.

“Our state-of-the-art solutions and electrolysis technology are already approaching the theoretical energy efficiency maximum,” explains Jacqueline Oonincx, Technology Director of Chlor-Alkali and Chloromethanes at Nouryon. “With these new membranes, Nouryon has the potential to further increase energy efficiency, reduce maintenance downtime, and yield significant energy and cost savings at an industrial scale.”

“We also anticipate optimizing our customer supply reliably, which is now more critical than ever,” she adds. “Companies depend on our raw materials for their manufacturing processes to produce products such as disinfectants, medicines, and other essential goods.”

It is the first real large-scale industrial application taking place to determine the technical, operational, and economic feasibility of the new generation of membrodes. With over a 40-year partnership, Asahi Kasei regularly partners with Nouryon to test its latest innovations and leverage the company’s experience, expertise, and operational equipment.

Recently, the new membranes were installed at the Nouryon chlorine plant in Delfzijl and the initial results have been encouraging. If testing proves to be successful, this innovative technology may very well be used on a much larger scale to further push the boundaries of energy efficiency for a sustainable future.

Learn more about how chlorine affects our day-to-day lives.