15 November 2012 00:21 [Source: ICIS news]
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (ICIS)--Aither Chemical’s new catalytic ethane cracking technology is a more cost-effective process to make ethylene, compared to traditional steam cracking, an executive said on Wednesday.
With ethane oxydehydrogenation, ethane is inserted into a tube, and a mixed metal oxide is used as a catalyst to produce ethylene and acetic acid, CEO Leonard Dolhert said during the ChemInnovations 2012 Conference.
Catalytic cracking uses about a third less ethane than steam cracking to make the same amount of product, Dolhert said.
It also requires lower capital costs because it is a simpler process that uses lower temperatures and less time for commercial operation, he added. Not only does it require 80% less energy input, but catalytic cracking also generates energy.
Catalytic cracking does produce some carbon dioxide, although the amount is 88% less than traditional steam cracking, Dolhert said.
But it is an easier separation process with fewer coproducts such as hydrogen, acetylene or unwanted hydrocarbons, he said. The simpler process allows for lower cost refining systems and fewer downstream derivative operations.
In addition, ethane oxydehydrogenation requires a smaller plant footprint, allowing facilities to be built easily near the ethane or where the market is, Dolhert said.
The catalytic tube reactor is scalable, he said, and the tube remains the same size, while scaling up or down would just require adding or removing tubes.
As a result, companies can build facilities based on ethane usage, Dolhert said. Also, they do not have to store ethane, as delivery can be brought up or down.
With the advent of shale gas providing the US petrochemical industry with cheap feedstock, the many advantages of catalytic cracking could make it ideal for shale ethane, as well as smaller amounts of ethane sources, Dolhert said.
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