Wacker licenses bio-acetic acid process

I’ve reported this in ICIS News during my trip to Wacker Chemie’s Burghausen, Germany, plant late last March, but for those who doesn’t have subscription, here’s your chance to get some information for free.

During the trip, Wacker’s senior vice president of R&D, Fridolin Stary, noted that their 500 ton/year ACEO bio-acetic acid pilot plant in Burghausen has already been up and running for the past six months and that they are licensing the technology for those who are interested.

Wacker has been investigating three biobased acetic acid route:

  • ACEO Process – involves a biomass feedstock being converted to ethanol (using yeast) and producing acetic acid via gas phase oxidation process (see partial diagram below)

  • Fermentation to Butanediol – Ferments biomass feedstock using bacteria to butane 2,3 diol, which could be then dehydrated to produce methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) or directly produce acetic acid via gas phase oxidation. Acetic acid from MEK is also possible via gas phase oxidation.
  • Homoacetate Fermentation – Ferments biomass feedstock to acetate/acetic acid using bacteria.

The ACEO pilot plant can be expanded depending on economics, said Stary. He noted that bio-based chemicals (in general) are mostly competitive if crude oil exceeds $80/bbl. Their ACEO process was able to produce more than 90% bio-acetic acid yield.

And since this process could already produce bio-ethanol, the next logical step is to work on producing bio-ethylene, another key chemical aside from acetic acid for Wacker’s polymer products that include vinyl acetate (VAE), vinyl acetate monomer (VAM), polyvinyl acetate (PVA), polyvinyl alcohol solutions, dispersions and dispersible polymer powders, vinyl chloride copolymers and terpolymers (among others).

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