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The History of Chemical Storage and Transfer Innovations

Innovations in the Chemical Storage and Transfer Industry can be traced as far back as the Romans and Ancient Egyptians, but many of the advancements we still recognise today took place during the Industrial Revolution and the start of what is considered to be the beginning of the Modern Chemical Industry.

Early beginnings

The Modern Chemical Industry came into being as a result of the demand for a rapid bleaching technique for the British cotton industry to replace the time-consuming method of using sunlight, sour milk, rain and urine. The solution was sulphuric acid, produced at scale. John Roebuck (1718 – 1794) developed a mass manufacturing method for sulphuric acid in 1746, using the Lead Chamber process which was a faster and less costly alternative to the previous method which utilised glass globes.

Industrial chemical storage tanks

Mass production demanded mass storage, so industrial chemical storage tanks were initially wooden barrels, quickly replaced by rivetted steel tanks, and tanks with welded seams were introduced. With a higher resistance to corrosion, stainless steel chemical storage tanks and silos became the primary means of storing chemicals: then the evolution of plastics began.

Evolution of plastic

The birth of plastics came in 1855 with the development of Parkesine, a plastic made from cellulose treated with nitric acid and solvent. Showcased at The International Exhibition of 1862 in London, its inventor Alexander Parkes (1813 – 1890) received a bronze medal. The first fully synthetic plastic, Bakelite was a chemical combination of phenol and formaldehyde, developed in 1907 by Leo Baekeland (1863 – 1944). Bakelite was a great commercial success due to its nonconductive and heat resistance properties and led the way for the development of other synthetic plastics.

After WW1 there was an explosion in the development of plastics; polyethylene was discovered in 1933 by ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries) and polypropylene in 1954, with manufacture beginning in 1957.

Thermoplastic Tanks

The properties of thermoplastics, such as polypropylene, mean they become mouldable when heated and retain their shape when cool, this makes them the ideal material to produce industrial chemical storage tanks as they can form a single homogenous wall without any seam welds (a point of weakness in metal tanks).

Thermoplastics also have a broad range of compatibility to chemicals, so thermoplastic tanks can be specially fabricated for applications involving aggressive and corrosive chemicals. This means that a sodium hypochlorite storage tank design, for example, will be able to meet the demands of that chemical.

These are some of the reasons why Chem Resist have been pioneering the use of thermoplastics in chemical storage since the early 1960s.

Thermoplastic piping systems

Like industrial chemical storage tanks, the development in thermoplastics has made significant advances in pipework systems. A far cry from the Roman-era lead pipes that formed the basis for water and sewage systems for hundreds of years, the first PVC pipe was invented in 1926 and became popular throughout the rebuilding of Germany and Japan in the aftermath of WW2.

Thermoplastic piping systems are significantly cheaper than metal pipes to manufacture and, due to their resistance to corrosion, far more sustainable in the long term. A thermoplastic tank is connected using a thermoplastic piping system – perfectly tailored for the media being transferred and the environment, using the most appropriate thermoplastic to make an ideal pipework system.

Types of chemical pumps

Humans have been using pumps for centuries; the Ancient Egyptians invented the Shadoof to raise water and Archimedes described the first positive displacement pump, ‘The Archimedes Screw’ in 234BC.

Throughout the Industrial Revolution, the demand for efficiency led to a rapid development in pump technologies. In 1851 the first patent was filed for a centrifugal pump by John Gwynne and in 1859 the first diaphragm pump was developed.

The specialism of pump technologies has innovated the industry and there are now many types of chemical pumps available. Each type of chemical pump is designed to meet the specific demands of an environment, application or media including more extreme materials – such as thick slurries and highly corrosive acids.

A fundamental component to any transfer system, chemical pumps are designed to pull and push at the required flow rate. Choosing the right chemical pump is key to a safe and efficient system. While there are now a wide range of technologies available, we can help you to find the specialised pump for your application.

How do Chem Resist innovate?

We are a market-leading chemical storage and transfer solutions provider – designing, fabricating, and installing bespoke systems for our customers. We have decades of experience in providing solutions for challenging applications involving aggressive and corrosive chemicals.

We also have an ongoing commitment to safety, quality, and the environment – to find new and innovative solutions within our industry. This has included new water recycling systems and a thorough investigation into the sustainability of our spiral wound thermoplastics.

You can learn more about Chem Resist, how we design and manufacture industrial chemical storage tanks, and our specialism in thermoplastics across the past 50 years. If you have a chemical storage and transfer application you’d like to discuss, please contact our friendly team who are on hand to help you find a solution.


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