Despite the long list of rocky mergers between culturally different companies, integrating research and development functions in newly combined global organizations is possible – and beneficial. In just 18 months of collaboration, Rain CII and Rütgers, who united in 2013, fully operationalized a pilot anode plant at Rütgers’ largest pitch production facility in Castrop-Rauxel, Germany. We knew from the beginning that cross-pollinating research and development in our two companies would deliver the biggest return.
Long and detailed discussions between our Rütgers and Rain CII teams resulted in a pilot anode design that has proven both reliable and flexible. Their collaboration built a solid foundation of trust – and distance has not been a barrier to ongoing interactions. It doesn’t matter that calcined petroleum coke (CPC) aggregate fractions are prepared in the U.S. Gulf region, or that coal tar pitch (CTP) is shipped from our distillation plant in Ontario, Canada. The CTP team is acquiring basic skills in the CPC business and the CPC team is expanding its knowledge of pitch-related issues. The number of pilot anodes produced and tested is now over 250 and has greatly increased both teams’ knowledge of critical pitch-coke interactions.
We continue to upgrade our test equipment in the pilot anode plant. We added a new capability to quantify the spring-back level in a green anode when pressure is released after forming. We recently commissioned a custom-built coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) furnace, allowing us to measure 50-millimeter-diameter core samples at temperatures up to 1,000°C. These additions will definitely help us better understand anode properties and continue to benefit from collaborative innovation.