26 October 2012 08:46 [Source: ICB]
Japanese companies are looking for alternative processes and technologies to alleviate pressure from easing fossil fuel supply
Japan is developing processes to counter the impact of US shale gas
Mitsubishi Chemical, for example, is developing a new process for purified terephthalic acid (PTA), and is targeting a plant with a 1.2m tonne/year capacity. Its latest, fifth-generation PTA process has been in operation since 2010 at its plant in West Bengal, India, but has yet to operate at full capacity as "the process is very innovative", according to Yoshihiro Umeha, managing executive officer of the company. As a result, the new process is based on the fourth-generation process that is in operation at its plant in Daxia Dao, China.
Mitsubishi Rayon set up a joint venture with SABIC to produce MMA in Saudi Arabia from 2014, using Lucite International's Alpha technology with methanol, ethylene and carbon monoxide as raw materials. The company plans to produce MMA in China and North America using the same technology.
Asahi Kasei Chemicals has also developed a new process to produce MMA from feedstock other than C4 fractions.
"It's the most cost-effective process," says Yuji Kobayashi, president of the company, although details have not been made public. "Negotiations are under way with several companies to commercialise the process through a joint venture."
NEW BUTADIENE STRATEGY
Butene dehydrogenation technology is also being developed to produce BD. It is a key strategy for Japanese petrochemical producers to enhance competitiveness by focusing on propylene and BD as ethylene comes under intensifying global competition from gas-based product, with the US shale gas revolution the latest step in that process. Asahi Kasei Chemicals' BB-FLEX and Mitsubishi Chemical's BTcB processes are nearing completion, and Showa Denko is following suit.
Asahi Kasei Chemicals plans to leverage BB-FLEX to produce cost-competitive BD overseas by dimerisation of natural gas-based ethylene to support its solution-polymerised styrene-butadiene rubber (S-SBR) operations. The company is also developing E-FLEX, a technology designed to produce ethylene and propylene from ethane and ethanol.
Mitsubishi Chemical's priority is to develop "sustainable resources" to accelerate the shift to non-fossil fuels. For example, PTTMCC Biochem, a joint venture with PTT, is looking at producing green sustainable plastics (GS Pla) in Thailand, using biomass resources to produce raw materials such as succinic acid and 1,4-butanediol. As it may involve a substantial amount of investment, however, the company plans to improve the process to reduce costs.
For the latest chemical news, data and analysis that directly impacts your business sign up for a free trial to ICIS news - the breaking online news service for the global chemical industry.
Get the facts and analysis behind the headlines from our market leading weekly magazine: sign up to a free trial to ICIS Chemical Business.
Sample issue >>
My Account/Renew >>
Register for online access >>
|ICIS Top 100 Chemical Companies|
|Download the listing here >>|