Phenol/Acetone '02: Shell unveils cheaper DMC process

23 May 2002 12:48  [Source: ICIS news]

MADRID (CNI)--A new process to make dimethyl carbonate (DMC), a feedstock in polycarbonate (PC) production, that significantly lowers capital and operating costs is being developed by Shell Chemical, revealed Tim English, global strategy manager – phenol/aromatics, Shell Chemical LP.

He told delegates here Thursday at the ICIS-LOR World Phenol/Acetone conference* here that these improvements give a capitalised cost saving of over $300/tonne compared with the oxidative carbonylation route to DMC. Another feature of the Shell process is that it produces propylene glycol (PG) as a valuable byproduct.

This process is an example of the work Shell is undertaking in developing clean technologies under its sustainable development programme, explained English.

In addition to its economic advantages, the process has a beneficial impact on the environment. Shell estimates that total carbon emissions can be reduced by 10% compared to producing melt-phase PC from DMC by existing processes.

The new technology was discussed as part of a solution to some of the problems facing the phenol/acetone industry in its drive towards sustainable development. English pointed out that production of PC, epoxy resins and methyl methacrylate (MMA) all have relatively high energy requirements, and involve inorganics such as nitrogen and chlorine with the exception of melt-phase PC.

He noted that new routes to MMA based on butene and ethylene offer lower capital and operating costs versus the acetone-based process. However, this could add to the oversupply of acetone, a truly non-sustainable situation, stressed English.

*The 2nd ICIS-LOR World Phenol/Acetone conference concludes today. ICIS-LOR is a sister company to CNI.

By: Peter Taffe
+44 20 8652 3214

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