Global PO production set to grow with new technology

03 March 2010 21:44  [Source: ICIS news]

BRUSSELS (ICIS news)--Global production of propylene oxide (PO) is set to rise by about 4%, led by Asia Pacific and a new 250,000-300,000 tonne/year plant per year, an Evonik official said on Wednesday.

The new hydrogen peroxide to propylene oxide (HPPO) technology is the most attractive PO production method compared with methods such as chlorohydrin and PO/styrene monomer (SM) technologies, said Tibor Kovacs, Evonik marketing manager for new technologies.

“It beats the others in terms of [manufacturing] costs,” he said.

The HPPO process does not have a direct correlation to crude and is not as heavily dependent on crude developments as traditional technologies, it therefore has clear cost benefits in view of increasing crude and energy costs, Kovacs said on the sidelines of the ICIS 5th World Olefins Conference.

The propylene glycol recovery potential with HPPO technology was also deemed advantageous, said Kovacs, adding that this was particularly important given the recent strong downstream de-icer demand due to the harsh winter across Europe.

“A 300, 000 tonnes/year HPPO unit could retrieve 7000 tonnes/year of PG and the return from this investment would be seen within less than a few years”, he said.

The HPPO process is “access to an on purpose technology dedicated to PO production, with no specific co-products, [with the exception of wastewater],” Kovacs said.

The advantage of mono-technology lies in the focus on the specific product cycles rather than being steered and compelled by specific ratios, said Kovacs.

“Co-product processes require triple the amount of investment to mono-technologies,” said Kovacs.

Kovacs said that the HPPO technology was environmentally friendly and compliant with the strictest European regulations. The lack of co-products equated to no treatment of any co-products and therefore meant lower energy consumption. Kovacs also added that HPPO has a “high selectivity process,” requiring less raw materials and less pressure compared with other traditional methods.

In 2008, SKC started the first world-scale 100, 000 tonne/year HPPO plant in Ulsan, using technology by Evonik and Uhde. 

In 2009, Dow Chemical and BASF started up a 300,000 tonne/year HPPO facility in Antwerp, Belgium, using their own version of the HPPO technology.

Kovacs said Evonik was focusing on Asia as a result of the sharp growth of derivative polyols and PG and was optimistic about some undisclosed Asian possibilities, as well as the probable expansion of the existing SKC HPPO plant in Asia.

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By: Heidi Finch
+44 20 8652 3214



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