Following the proper process
When Coek Engineering was established back in 1966 its customer base could, arguably, not have been any more different from that of Coek Group (Coek) in 2017. Originally focused on automated flour silos for industrial bakeries, it was not until 1977 that the company started to turn its attention to the chemical and petrochemical sectors. What followed was the construction of new production facilities in Geel in 1977 and 1994, and Genk in 1987, in order to fulfil increasing quality requirements.
“At the beginning of the 1990s, we began to focus on exotic applications with titanium, hastelloy and zirconium materials,” begins Coek’s Sales Director, Patrick Van Roy. “Processing such materials requires specific know-how and allowed us to further specialise in niche markets, which resulted in the development and fabrication of our first titanium clad oxidation reactor for purified terephtalic acid (PTA) in 1990 for BP, which was a massive milestone in the history of Coek. Then, in 2005, we had new production facilities built in Geel, which allowed us to fabricate equipment up to ten metres in diameter and with a total weight up to 1000 tonnes.”
With more than 50 years of experience in the development and manufacturing of process equipment, Coek is today one of the most renowned players on the global stage when it comes to servicing markets where clad equipment is used in critical processes, during which safety and corrosion-resistance are extremely important.
“Coek is very much focused on niche markets, in which our commitment to quality and reliability has allowed us to distinguish ourselves and to build healthy relationships with remunerated license holders, to whom we have become preferred and approved vendors for large projects,” Patrick continues. “The market segments we specialise in are mainly related to the petrochemical industry and revolve around elements including PTA, acetic acid, polypropylene, butyl and MEG. In addition to this, we have also become one of the main fabricators producing titanium clad autoclaves for the mining industry. A particular contract that we have recently signed in this field is for a titanium clad autoclave, which will be used for a precious metal mining project, and is not only the first autoclave to be used in this type of application, but also the largest ever built at over 1000 tonnes.
“At the same time, we have a total of seven reactors in fabrication for different polypropylene projects in China and Nigeria. These polypropylene, gas phased, horizontal reactors are the largest built for this type of technology. For this particular market, we are not only supplying the reactors, and the accompanying agitators, but we are also providing the complete reactor package, including mechanical seals, drive systems, valves and all related instrumentation. We have supplied approximately 50 of these reactors since 1990, becoming the main fabricator of this equipment worldwide, with sales activities set up in India, China, Korea, Russia and Kuwait.”
By focusing on relatively expensive materials, Coek has been successful in compensating for the high cost of wages in its native Belgium by embracing a far-reaching programme of investment in its state-of-the-art workplaces and in automated machinery. This has allowed the company to reduce the number of working man hours required, without compromising on the quality of its infrastructure or the high-end process equipment it typically supplies.
“Given our focus on clad equipment, we have invested in technology that allows us to increase the efficiency and quality of our fabrication processes,” Patrick explains. “From this perspective, we have a series of dedicated milling machines that allows us to strip the cladding areas on the edges of the plates very precisely. In order to limit possible misalignments of the circumferential welds we are using state-of-the-art aligning systems allowing us to minimise such instances, even when dealing with large diameters of up to ten metres.
“For heads, we also operate large manipulation equipment that can handle heads of up to 100 tonnes in weight, allowing us to weld the segments with the sub-merged arc welding process. This requires a fully automated synchronisation between the heavy-duty manipulator and the welding column-and-boom. In addition to this, circumferential welds are welded in tandem by automated narrow gap welding processes, and even the task of clad restore welding of titanium cladding is able to be executed to a large extent through the use of automated tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding procedures.”
Looking ahead to 2018, Patrick and the rest of the Coek team are anticipating demand emanating from numerous different sources, not least of all a new wave of PTA based activities from customers in China and the Middle East. “We have tasked our sales department with focusing its efforts on persuading end users to take sufficient time to evaluate the risks and consequences surrounding quality when it comes to selecting their products,” Patrick adds. “This issue is all the more prevalent when it comes to process equipment with high safety specifications, and we want to emphasise to EPC contractors and other users the importance of paying greater attention towards both vendor selection and material selection. At the same time, we will also build upon the strategic relationships we have with our key suppliers in order to stay competitive in a rapidly moving market, and stay ahead of the competition.”
Coek Group (Coek)
Products: Pressure vessels, columns, reactors and heat exchangers