Price and market trends: BP to roll out new technology to produce acetic acid, ethylene

15 November 2013 09:52  [Source: ICB]

The company’s process will enable producers to make up to 300,000 tonnes/year of ethylene in a single train

BP is to commercialise a new process to make acetic acid from synthesis gas and a technology which directly converts ethanol to ethylene.

The acetic acid technology is likely to be used in a 1m tonne/year production project which is expected to be announced in the first half of 2014, the company said.

The ethanol dehydration to ethylene technology will be licensed, BP said.

It can be used to produce between 50,000 tonnes/year and 300,000 tonnes/year of ethylene in a single train.

The technologies could be combined, BP believes, giving a process route from the conversion of synthesis gas directly to ethanol, and ethanol conversion to ethylene. “This is the biggest breakthrough in acetic acid technology in the past 40 years,” CEO of BP Global Petrochemicals, Nick Elmslie said.

BP said acetic acid demand is forecast to grow at 6% a year between 2010 and 2020, meaning that one or two new world-scale plants are needed each year.

The company’s current Cativa XL methanol carbonylation technology has reached fundamental chemical efficiency limits. The new, three-step SaaBre acetic acid technology could deliver a material variable cost advantage of more than $50/tonne over Cativa XL and does not require expensive metal process parts, according to BP.

“The principal advantages for SaaBre are that it eliminates the need to purify carbon monoxide, does not require the purchase of methanol and contains no iodides, reducing the need for exotic metallurgy,” Elmslie said.

BP’s new Hummingbird process yields more than 99% of polymer-grade ethylene from ethanol under relatively mild operating conditions.

“We see a considerable market for smaller-scale ethylene production where full-scale crackers would not be commercially viable,” BP’s vice president for conversion technology, Mark Howard, said.

The technology would not compete with ethane cracking in a low-cost gas environment, BP said, but could use ethanol from different hydrocarbon and bio-resources.

The company believes that the SaaBre synthesis gas to chemicals platform could in future be used to produce ethanol, which could be processed further to ethylene using the Hummingbird technology.

By: Nigel Davis
+44 20 8652 3214

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