11 March 2009 17:07 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS news)--US green technology company Novomer is developing a new route to acrylic acid (AA) that would use ethylene as a raw material rather than chemical-grade propylene, a company officer said on Wednesday.
Through a process engineered by Cornell University professor Geoffrey Coates, Novomer will use ethylene oxide (EO) and recycled carbon monoxide (CO) to produce cheaper and more "environmentally friendly" AA via the intermediate propriolactone, said Peter Shepard, vice president of business development at the Waltham, Massachusetts-based company.
The propiolactone part of the equation is not new, Shepard said, but older technology employed ketenes and formaldehyde to get to AA and the esters.
"We basically have a more efficient route to the intermediate," he said, using CO and EO instead. The process would create higher yields, fewer byproducts and require less energy, he said.
Although targeted full-scale production of 50,000-200,000 tonnes/year is still 2-3 years away, Shepard said, the company hopes to establish a partnership by the end of 2009 - ideally with an established AA producer in the US or a company in the Middle East or Asia that "has lots of ethylene and wants to expand its portfolio of value-added products".
The method could reduce material costs by 20-30%, and potentially reduce capital costs by 50%, said Mike Slowik, Novomer's manager of strategic planning and analysis. But cost efficiencies would vary depending on the location of plants and access to feedstocks, he added.
He added that although the focus is now on the production of AA, the leap to acrylate esters production would be a small one.
"Based on what we're looking at now, it very well could be the process of choice going forward," Shepard said.
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