Production increase nitric acid plants with creep project

Increasing plant capacity without major capital projects? Then a creep project – the little brother of debottlenecking – is highly recommended. Sitech recently carried out such a creep at the factory of one of our customers. With success on results, as the targeted production increase was achieved.

Adjustments needed for more production
The creep project started after the summer of 2021. “Our customer was keen to achieve an 8 percent increase in production,” says Project Manager Ralph Lecoeur. “To get more production through, the capacity of the compressor train was increased. The more it produced, the more product needed to be cooled and therefore a larger heat exchanger was needed. An expansion of the demister vessel (drip trap) was also necessary. Finally, higher production also releases more water that needs to be cooled. Hence, an expansion of the existing cooling tower was also required. Technically a challenging job in terms of engineering, because there was a lot of construction and piping work to be done in a small area.”

Bringing purchases forward because of long lead times
Another challenge was the lead time, which was very short from start “basic engineering to completion. The modifications and renewals had to be implemented during the Turn Around in the fall of 2022. Ralph: “So no time to lose. That’s why we started right away with the ‘basic and detailed engineering’. In parallel, we also started ordering materials and equipment. These had a very long delivery time due to the corona crisis. When war broke out in Ukraine, the delivery time didn’t get any shorter and everything also got more expensive quickly.”

With such a big project, there are always residual issues. For instance, we still had a setback at start-up after the Turn Around. Once those issues were resolved, the plant was running at full capacity. Even better than expected. The points of attention are evaluated for future implementation.
Ralph Lecoeur, Project Manager

Good cooperation from steering committee to execution
In the Turn Around, the project team had three weeks for the dismantling of the old plants, the piping work and the erection and construction of the new plant and connections to the existing cooling water pipes and to the existing process pipes. “The tight schedule was not fully realized and in the run-out the team had to work hard to get quality under control,” said the Project Manager. Despite these concerns, from the beginning the atmosphere was good and we worked together wonderfully at all levels. That we achieved this result is thanks to the project team members from Sitech and the customer, our Turn Around colleagues and the contractors involved.

Target achieved
The project is now in the completion phase. Ralph: “With such a large project, there are always residual points. For example, we had a setback at the start-up after the Turn Around when it turned out that wrongly assembled flanges had to be repaired. Once those issues were resolved, the plant was running at full capacity. Even better than expected. The areas of concern are being evaluated for future implementation, for example, an error was discovered during engineering which would have been critical in operations and the schedule came under such pressure during the implementation period that the quality of assembly was not what the customer and Sitech were aiming for.”

More information?
If you would like to know more about our specialism in Projects, please contact us at

Related articles


Sitech deploys scale-up and engineering expertise in commisioning bench scale installation Brightsite Plasmalab


Blog by Willem Offermans: Artificial intelligence in self-direction

Case, News

Ebert HERA adopts Sitech designation policy (aanwijsbeleid) with direct benefit to customer in Europoort area