09 May 2013 09:20 [Source: ICIS news]
TAIPEI (ICIS)--Bio-based butadiene (BD) production is likely to reach commercial scale before 2020, driven by innovation and the development of second-generation sugar feedstocks, an industry consultant said on Thursday.
Bill Hyde, a C4 consultant for IHS Chemical, said that a number of companies are in the process of pursuing methods for producing bio-based butadiene that may prove to be competitive with conventional on-purpose BD.
“We think there are some bio-based routes to BD that will be economically competitive with conventional routes to [on-purpose] BD,” Hyde said.
“Between now and 2017, this is probably not going to be a big driver, but before 2020 there will probably be commercial on-purpose [bio-based] BD production. It won’t be enough to move the supply-demand balance, but it’s going to be something that’s real,” he added.
There is currently growing interest in all forms of on-purpose BD. According to Hyde, production is expected to grow to 8% of the total BD output by 2017, Hyde said, insufficient to have a significant effect on pricing, but enough to make it a significant part of the global BD market.
“Eight percent of the market is not enough to drive pricing yet, but it is enough that you start paying attention to it,” he said.
The US is expected to re-commence production of on-purpose BD by 2016, the first time since the early 2000s, as a result of a 270,000 tonne/year plant being developed in Texas by the US-based TPC Group. Developed using TPC’s proprietary technology, the plant is scheduled to start up by late 2016.
China is another market where on-purpose BD production is expected to grow strongly, due to the proliferation of coal-to-olefins plants. There are forecast to be 25 coal-to-olefins units in China with a combined capacity of almost 16m tonnes/year.
If half of the butylene produced by these plants were fed into butane dehydrogenation (BDH) units, annual production would be roughly 700,000 tonnes, nearly equal to the current BDH capacity, Hyde said.
“You could potentially see a model where a 600,000 tonne coal olefins unit then has about a 50,000 tonne butylene dehydrogenation unit bolted onto it, and then a small BD derivative unit bolted on. We know that there are discussions we haven’t factored any of this into our balances yet... but it could be a significant game-changer.”
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