Acrylic acid green makeover

Two chemical companies are on the race to make acrylic acid greener. Acrylic acid is used in the manufacture of various plastics, coatings, adhesives, elastomers as well as floor polishes and paints.

France-based Arkema said it has already concluded a successful collaboration with Germany-based hte (the high throughput experimentation company) on trying to convert glycerol to acrylic acid and acrolein by screening a variety of new suitable catalysts.

Arkema said hte’s technology saved a vast amount of time and they were able to produce results in a matter of months that would normally have taken over two years using conventional testing equipment. No word yet on Arkema’s next step with the project. A pilot plant perhaps?

Meanwhile, ICIS News reported (this link is subscription only) that US-based Novomer is working to produce a greener acrylic acid using ethylene and recycled carbon monoxide. The process, according to Novomer, would create higher yields, fewer byproducts and require less energy compared to the traditional propylene-based acrylic acid route.

3 Responses to Acrylic acid green makeover

  1. Mark Morgan, Director Renewable Chemicals 8 October, 2009 at 4:06 am #

    This is not the first time that glycerine has featured as a feedstock source for acrylic acid. Other companies are interested too.

    However, there are a number of challenges relating to glycerine supply and price volatility. As a by-product, glycerine market dynamics are challenging to forecast.

    It is true that if biodiesel operating rates in Europe and globally are strong then glycerine can move into oversupply (on top of supply from fats splitting, detergent alcohols, etc) and crude glycerine especially can command very low pricing indeed. GOOD NEWS. However, in a scenario of high natural oil pricing and low biodiesel plant utilisation, supply can be come very tight and pricing accordingly astranomical. (NOT SO GOOD NEWS)

    There are other factors to consider in a techno-economic appraisal of bio-acrylic acid via this route,which Nexant has reviewed in detail. However, overall if glycerine is long you could get the situation when bio-acrylic acid looks very favourable. When glycerine supply is tight, the situation is quite the reverse. Nexant has undertaken commercial and technical due diligence on behalf of lending banks in projects where glycerine is the feedstock and such price volatility is a concern in its experience.

    However, this raises an interesting question as to who can win the bio-acrylic acid race, the biomass based route (e.g., Cargill/Novozymes A/S) or the glycerine based route, or perhaps there are other options not yet considered…?


  2. zhl009 12 April, 2010 at 11:33 pm #

    Hi Doris and Mark:
    I’m also interesting with the glycerine to acrylic acid. Shokubai Ltd. of Tokyo also said that it has developed a high-performance catalyst for manufacturing acrolein/acrylic acid from glycerol. Maybe the biggest challenge is the low-cost source of glycerine. Solvay’s glycerol-to-epichlorohydrin or epichlorohydrin-to-glycerol plant is a helpless choice as the price fluctuation of raw material. Maybe, as the development of the biodiesel, the price of glycerine can decrease.
    Further more, Mr. Mark, do you have the paper of Nexant’s report about techno-economic appraisal of bio-acrylic acid? If it is convenient to you, could you let me see it? Thank you.

  3. Doris de Guzman 16 April, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    Hi Mark,
    Thanks for the comment. You are right when it comes to glycerine. I am currently attending the ICIS oleochemicals conference and Bob Drennan of Vantage Specialty Chemicals (formerly the Uniqema Americas business) mentioned the difficulty of encouraging development of new glycerine-based chemicals because of glycerine’s pricing volatility. I have heard a lot about research efforts on glycerine-based chemicals development especially back then when oil prices skyrocketed but big companies (aside from ADM for their propylene glycol and Solvay for their ECH) seems hesitant now on commercializing some of these chemicals.

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