Valuable silver recovered following turnaround by SABIC Geleen (NL)

In 2019, SABIC Geleen in Limburg, the Netherlands, planned to have a big turnaround of one of their steam crackers. During such a period, the cracker is out of operation for a long time for cleaning, revamp and the replacement of some parts. A turnaround is also cost intensive because not only is the process unit out of use, but tools, heavy equipment, materials and raw materials are deployed to carry out the project. Efficient project management is therefore vital to ensure everything runs smoothly and to get a good result, which can often be challenging. 

Recovering silver from catalyst waste

That was no different with the turnaround of SABIC’s OLEFINS 4 cracker. In this cracker, a silver catalyst is used to trigger certain processes. Since silver is a precious metal, its recovery offers both economic and ecological advantages. Re-using silver residues as a raw material contributes to the circular economy. Separating the silver from the remainder of the catalyst is a huge challenge however. And for that they turned to Indaver, SABIC’s Total Waste Management partner for advice. 

Intensive preparation leads to an unprecedented yield

SABIC approached Indaver in the spring of 2019. At the time, the focus was on sample analyses to determine how much silver was in the waste stream and what the most sustainable treatment technique was. However, after extensive market research by Indaver, it seemed every scenario would involve considerable costs. At the end of 2019, the most sustainable solution was found: a preliminary treatment followed by treatment at a catalyst recycler in Germany. After analysing yet another test load in April 2020, the silver concentration appeared to be twice as high, and soon after the full waste transport took place. Thanks to recycling the silver in this way, cost turned into profit. With this innovative solution, Indaver achieved a substantial profit of thousands of EUR for SABIC. 

Teamwork results in logistical and operational successes

In the end, around 176 tonnes of this type of waste was transported in more than 100 bins, shared between 9 trucks. When delivering the bins quick handovers were a logistical challenge. SABIC loaded the catalyst into the bins itself, Indaver's operator-on-site Jozef Claesen (Jos) who ensures the daily waste management on the SABIC site, organised the bins and was responsible for overseeing and loading the trucks. It is also thanks to Jos that the process was impeccable. 

Good communication and documentation is the key to success

Efficient communication between the SABIC contact person René Ebus, Senior Manager Turnarounds and SABIC project team members Ad de Teuling, Ivo Kicken and Leo Harners and Indaver, made the project a real success. Because this concerns valuable precious metals, a well-documented report is essential for SABIC. The short lines of communication meant that the comprehensive documentation compiled by Indaver on the various analyses and the inspection reports could be shared easily with SABIC. 

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