Converting acetone to IPA could counter surplus - ex-Shell exec

16 June 2010 13:47  [Source: ICIS news]

By Mark Victory

LONDON (ICIS news)--Conversion to isopropanol (IPA) could counteract an expected surplus of acetone within the next five years, a former Shell executive said on Wednesday.

“Is it 100,000 tonnes [of excess acetone] next year? Probably not, but it will start to be a problem from now, and it will happen in the next five years,” said David Young, an ex-solvents and phenol manager at Shell Chemicals.

The expectation of the surplus of acetone was due to forecasts of stronger worldwide phenol growth than acetone in the next five years. Acetone is a by-product of phenol - one tonne of phenol produces 0.62 tonnes of acetone.

Acetone could be taken up by the IPA market because IPA is cheaper to produce using acetone than propylene, which is the most commonly used feedstock, according to Young.

He added that IPA and acetone prices closely followed each other, and that in the last 10 years there was an average €200/tonne spread between the two products.

“Conversion to IPA for me is probably the way forward [for acetone] and probably the way to solve the [surplus] problem,” Young added during a speech at the 6th ICIS World Phenol-Acetone conference.

His comments echoed those made earlier in the day by Michael Foeste, phenol product manager at Mitsui & Co Deutschland, who predicted that there could be a 200,000 tonne/year surplus of acetone by 2015.

Foeste also saw IPA as a growth downstream area for acetone, led by demand from Asia for semiconductors, an end-use product for IPA.

“We don’t have exact figures, but we expect 5-6% yearly growth [for IPA globally until 2015],” Foeste said during a question and answer session after his speech.

Novapex began commercial deliveries at a 40,0000 tonne/year IPA plant in Roussilin France on 22 January 2010, using acetone as the feedstock.

On the sidelines of the conference there were expectations that there could be an increased number of global plants producing IPA from acetone in the near future.

“Certainly there have been players talking about it,” an acetone producer said.

($1 = €0.81)

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By: Mark Victory
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