Media Release

Below-Grade Concrete Structures at Texas Ammonia Plant Protected by Penetron


The expansion of the Yara International/BASF ammonia plant in Freeport, Texas was completed in December 2021. The Penetron System of concrete waterproofing products was specified to protect the new concrete structures from the region’s high groundwater levels and the brackish environment.

The Freeport, Texas ammonia production plant is a joint venture by Yara International, a Norwegian chemical company specialized in agricultural products and environmental protection agents, and BASF, a German multinational chemical company and the largest chemical producer in the world. Originally commissioned in 2018, the plant has a capacity of 750,000 metric tons of ammonia per year.

"Conventional ammonia plants use natural gas to produce the hydrogen needed for ammonia production,” explains Christopher Chen, Director of The Penetron Group. “However, the Freeport plant foregoes this initial production step by accessing hydrogen that would normally be discarded by the nearby petrochemical plants. This makes production more cost-efficient and reduces the carbon footprint of the production process.”

Looking for Robust Waterproofing Protection

The Freeport plant recently completed an expansion of key concrete structures by adding new below-grade concrete vaults and storage areas. Because the construction site is located on the low-lying Brazos River coastal plain close to the Gulf of Mexico, Alamo Concrete, the project’s ready-mix concrete supplier, realized the Freeport project needed robust protection from the region’s high groundwater levels – and the subsequent high hydrostatic pressure.

After consultation with the Penetron team, PENETRON ADMIX SB, a permeability-reducing concrete admixture, was specified to treat the concrete vaults and storage areas. The admixture was added directly to the mix during batching in pre-measured soluble bags, which dissolve easily to simplify dosing and minimize packaging waste. PENETRON, a topical crystalline material, and PENECRETE MORTAR, a crystalline waterproofing repair grout, were applied to the concrete surfaces to seal pipe and cable inlets, construction joints, tie-holes on the walls – and any imperfections that occurred during concrete placement.

Permanently Seal Micro-Cracks and Pores

Whether added to the concrete mix or applied to a prepared concrete surface, the proprietary chemicals in Penetron’s crystalline products react in a catalytic reaction to generate a permanent crystalline formation throughout the pores and capillary tracts of the concrete. These crystals permanently seal micro-cracks, pores, and capillaries against the penetration of water or liquids from any direction – making the concrete impermeable.

“The Penetron System is easy to implement, simplifying the waterproofing and protection solution, which helped keep the Freeport project on schedule," adds Christopher Chen. " Finally, Penetron products enable concrete to self-heal, permanently sealing hairline cracks. This reduces any potential waterproofing-related maintenance and repair costs.”

This photo shows a below-grade concrete vault under construction. PENETRON ADMIX was added to the mix to protect the concrete structure from groundwater.

Protected from high groundwater: This photo shows a below-grade concrete vault under construction. PENETRON ADMIX was added to the mix to protect the concrete structure from groundwater.

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