03 July 2007 17:55 [Source: ICIS news]
By Nigel Davis
You can usually find a producer with a plant somewhere using an outdated process. Chemical plants are long-lived, the technology associated with them even more so.
Process can be revitalised too. New catalysts give reaction mechanisms a lift. Indeed, it is the job of the chemists to manufacture a product more efficiently, sometimes more safely.
So it is with acetylene. Hardly the most benign of substances. A feedstock whose time appeared to have passed as its use was superseded by new chemicals technology.
A little bit of history: global acetylene production peaked between 1960 and 1970. It was the primary feedstock for many commodity and specialty chemicals. But different, possibly safer and certainly more cost-effective olefins technology took over.
Fast forward to the 21st century and acetylene process technology is now the technology of choice in
The coal-to-calcium carbide-to-acetylene route is well known but natural gas-based acetylene technology is much rarer.
“The continued growth of acetylene technology will depend largely on the future cost of coal and natural gas and the ability to produce large-volume commodity chemicals not produced today," the consultants say.
Ethylene and benzene production are technically feasible. The question is whether there is economic advantage enough to warrant commercialisation.
Acrylonitrile production from acetylene looks competitive in
Ethylene from acetylene costs are not directly competitive with gas to ethylene but the process route does exhibit low enough costs, Nexant Chem Systems says, “to have promise in the export market for ethylene produced in eastern Europe, the Middle East and China exported to the US in 2010."
Acetylene technology is not the most attractive. Mere mention of it often provokes raised eyebrows. It is not just the cost of feedstock but of power that is important from the process economics point of view.
But this revitalised technology has a place in world.
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