Development of the ARG ethylene pipeline

Source: ECN

2001/09/23

In 1968, the development of the European ethylene market led to the foundation of the Aethylen-Rohrleitungs-Gesellschaft (ARG). Between April 1970 and January 1974, the following sections were put into operation:

  • Gelsenkirchen, Germany - Dormagan, Germany (April 1970)
  • Dormagen, Germany - Beek, Netherlands (January 1971)
  • Beek, Netherlands - Tessenderlo, Belgium (January 1972)
  • Tessenderlo, Belgium - Ekeren, Belgium (May 1972)
  • Lövenich, Germany - Wesseling, Germany (August 1972)
  • Ekren, Belgium - Lillo, Belgium (May 1973)
  • Bottrop, Germany - Holten, Netherlands (April 1973)
  • Holten, Netherlands - Rheinberg, Germany (January 1974)

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At the end of 1974, the ARG ethylene pipeline in Germany was uprated (to pressures in the supercritical range) to bring it in line with pressures in the sections in the Netherlands and Belgium - thereby eliminating a throughput bottleneck. With the addition of a parallel line on the Antwerp-Tessenderlo section (around 75km, switched on in the first half of 1991), the ARG pipeline networks stretched 490km.

In the Antwerp region, local ethylene producer distribution pipelines (eg Dow Chemical and Fina Antwerp Olefins) and the pipeline networks of Exxon and Solvay are connected to the ARG network. The pipeline runs from Antwerp in an easterly direction through the Kempen petrochemical area in Belgium to the Limburg region in the southwest of the Netherlands.

Continuing into Germany, west of Cologne the line branches into a southern and a northern section. The southern section provides a link with the Wesseling industrial area, where the ARG network is connected to the ethylene pipeline leading to Frankfurt and via the BASF pipeline to Ludwigshafen. Connecting ethylene producers and processors north of Cologne, the other section leads to the northern part of the Ruhr area with a branch linked to Oberhausen and Rheinberg on the lower Rhine.

Connecting ethylene producers and customers is dependent on the agreement of a common set of economic conditions and solving several technical problems. Key issues, according to official ARG records, were the development of a safe operating strategy, a common binding ethylene specification and the agreement of General Conveying Conditions which form the basis of all transport contracts with the ARG.

As ARG states, its 'principle of a system open to all enterprises concerned in the transportation of ethylene is at present unique. A transportation tariff system combined with the General Conveying Conditions permit long-term planning by customers, as well as movements at short notice.'

The pipeline system has a diameter of 250mm rising to 300mm - in parts of the parallel pipeline - enabling a transport capacity of about 2m tonne/year. The ARG does not have its own staff, but uses the specialist services of employees from its partners DSM and Hüls.