April 2010

Special Report: Petrochemical Developments

Update: Spent caustic treatment

Better operating practices and prevention methods reduce problems in handling 'red oil'

De Haan, S., Lummus Technology; Howdeshell, M., Maugans, C., Siemens Water Technologies

Caustic towers at ethylene plants remove acid gases, hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and carbon dioxide (CO2) from ethylene gas. The spent caustic from these towers contains mercaptans and sulfides, which are reactive and odorous. Accordingly, the spent caustic requires special handling and treatment before being discharged to a conventional wastewater treatment plant. Often, the spent caustic is most commonly treated in an oxidation reactor. Also known as wet air oxidation (WAO), this process converts the sulfides into oxidation products such as sulfate ions. Other components and contaminants present in the spent caustic can affect the WAO systems. Field observations conducted at multiple ethylene

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