At ICL, we firmly believe that applied R&D is the only way forward towards achieving optimization, conservation and economizing of our existing process conditions. It also opens door in new vistas for gaining diversity in our production line based on utilization of process waste as well as surplus streams.
R&D activity has always been a hallmark of ICL in all three phases of its existence namely
1) Post commissioning (i.e.) the initial private era (1964-1971)
2) The state enterprise era (1971-1995)
3) The post privatization era (1995-todate)
During the initial period R&D work was confined to in-process development and refinement, utilization of waste streams and utilization of surplus chlorine. The R&D Section effectively worked on Brine Purification techniques, (improving quality of cell feed brine for electrolysis) replacing nascent chlorine washing with cooling to remove moisture before contact with Sulphuric Acid for dehumidification.
In those days Bleaching Powder was also manufactured. It was a hot saleable item with textile and yarn industry. A lot of research work was done to improve the quality and stability of Bleaching Powder wherein the later was effectively marketed for a number of years. The product effectively competed with a number of brands especially Adamjee’s.
Research work was also carried out for the reclamation of spent chlorinated sulfuric acid obtained from the chlorine drying section. The research was, however, off-set and annulled due to nationalization of the entire chemical complex in 1971.
During this era, products like Sodium Hypochlorite, Bleaching Earth and Zinc Sulphate were researched upon from lab scale abinitio, to pilot plant stage and ultimately to full scale activity which culminated in setting up prototype plants. From a few hundred kilograms per day during the initial period of development, the plants rose to capacities of 5 tons / day of Bleaching Earth and 20 tons /day of Sodium Hypo until privatization.
In order to utilize spent Sulphuric Acid from Chlorine Drying section, a pilot plant for the manufacturing of Alum from Bauxite was also established. However, due to constant research the use of spent acid was diverted to produce Zinc Sulphate from Zinc Ash.
Laboratory scale / pilot plant work was also done for the regeneration of Heat Transfer Salt, production of Zinc Chloride (liquid), Ferric Chloride and Calcium Chloride 72% all involving local equipment and expertise.
Another significant R&D achievement was the de-mercurization of Hydrochloric Acid. The later process was developed due to persistent demand of the neighboring gelatin factory for mercury free acid used in production of edible gelatin.
The dawn of the post privatization era brought with it a new dimensional approach together with renewed devotion, resolve and commitment towards rapid industrial growth. The first R&D task undertook by ICL during the private era was the revival of Zinc Sulphate Plant and its up-gradation together with product quality refinement. The product Zinc Sulphate (monohydrate), brand name “Ittehad Zinc”, is second to none and is a hot selling commodity with agriculturists due to its quality and high zinc contents.
The balancing and modernization as well as up-gradation of the Sodium Hypochlorite Plant and Bleaching Earth plant were undertaken simultaneously.
Another major step was the enhancement in production capacity of Caustic Soda (by 240 tons) through the installation of mercury-free environment-friendly Ion Exchange Membrane Electrolyzers. A lot of corrosion resistant engineering material including FRP (developed through R&D and local expertise) was manufactured in the ICL workshops to supplement the installation and commissioning of the IEM Plant.
R&D work also concentrated upon improving the process parameters for ultimate conservation and optimizing the inputs thereby reducing the cost of production. A pilot plant for the production of CaCl2 solid was also established. Based on the initial findings of the pilot plant, a full scale CaCl2 prills unit was set up in technical collaboration with M/s NIVOBA BV., Veendam, Holland in the year 2007.
In order to cater for chlorine, which will be used in our future expansion programs, R&D work has already been undertaken for producing Phosphoric Acid through HCL route, a rare process which is in vogue at only a few potential production facilities around the world. Other R&D jobs undertaken are the effective utilization of carbon dioxide released during acid lime stone reaction for production of calcium chloride liquid for CCIL plant.
R&D work was carried out on a laboratory scale to recover BaSO4 from the sludge through washing of acid soluble impurities. The successful completion of lab work culminated in establishing a proper BaSO4 recovery plant of about 4 tons per day capacity. The product is mostly used in paint industry and favorably compares with several brands which are being imported in the country.