S Africa's Sasol looks to Degussa-Uhde tech for PO plant

21 August 2003 11:59  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (CNI)--South African chemicals group Sasol is considering the construction of a 60 000 tonne/year propylene oxide plant (PO) using new technology licensed from German firms Uhde and Degussa, it was announced Thursday.

German engineering group Uhde said in a statement that the proposed plant in South Africa would be the first licensed, commercial use of the PO technology it has developed with specialty chemicals firm Degussa.

Pre-feasibility studies have been completed by all three companies and basic engineering on the proposed plant will begin shortly, said Uhde. It said the basic engineering would determine whether to proceed further with the project.

Sasol plans to use the PO to produce propylene glycol (PG) ethers. Neither financial or scheduling details of the PO project were disclosed.

The new technology produces PO through the catalytic oxidation of propylene with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). The Sasol project could also lead to Degussa building an adjacent 40 000 tonne/year hydrogen peroxide plant, it was also announced today.

Uhde added that the Sasol project would serve as the benchmark against which bigger plants would be planned. Licensing revenues from the PO technology will be split equally between Degussa and Uhde. Their partnership to develop the technology was established in 2001 and they planned then for commercialisation to begin from mid to late 2003.

Uhde’s statement said that, apart from water, the process does not result in significant quantities of byproducts. The process was refined at a pilot plant at Degussa’s site at Hanau-Wolfgang, Germany.

PO is used primarily in the production of polyurethane (PU) and polyester resin raw materials. It is currently manufactured mainly through the chlorohydrine process, which produces a chlorine-containing waste liquor, and the PO/styrene monomer (SM) process, which results in the generation of large volumes of SM as the co-product.

The Sasol project employing the new PO technology would give Degussa additional sales opportunities for hydrogen peroxide, which led it to propose the adjacent 40 000 tonne/year plant. While it is the world’s second largest hydrogen peroxide producer, Degussa has no plans to commercially produce its own PO and places high strategic value on the new technology.





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