SNPE boosts phosgene unit

19 January 1998 00:00  [Source: ICB]

New uses of phosgene in the manufacture of key intermediates for the synthesis of oral antibiotic bacampicilline and in the phosgenation of aldehydes and epoxides are driving demand for the hazardous gas at France's SNPE.

Other recent advances involving phosgene, according to the company, include a new hexa-alkylquanidinium chloride catalyst with applications in acid chlorides, the demethylation of arylmethyl ethers and regeneration of triphenyl phosphine, used in synthesis of vitamins.

As a result, the company is to expand phosgene capability at its Toulouse site to 45 000 tonne/year from 30 000 tonne/year by the middle of this year, and will spend FF110m ($18.05m) on a phosgenes derivatives unit on the same site for its pharmaceutical division. The latter is due to come onstream in mid-1999.

The new capacity will be geared to the needs of fine chemicals manufacture and will help cut storage needs of the hazardous chemical.

At a press meeting last week, SNPE said it was considering a phosgene project in the US and is shortly to sign a joint venture with a Chinese phosgene group near Shanghai.

Phosgene derivatives geared to custom manufacture represent a growing part of SNPE's chemicals business, which last year achieved sales of FF2.2bn, half the group's turnover. Phosgene-related turnover last year reached FF900m and is expected to grow by 15% in 1998. SNPE also has phosgene capability at Framochem in Hungary.

Of the 6-8m tonne of phosgene produced each year, 85% is used in MDI/TDI production, 10% for polycarbonates and 5% for fine chemicals. The chemical still represents the only active industrial source of carbon dioxide, a fact pressed home in a recent review of phosgene chemistry by Jean-Pierre Senet, research manager at SNPE.

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