About 95% of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) production has been used in gasoline as an octane booster and oxygenate. It can also be used to make high purity isobutylene for butyl rubber and polyisobutylene production, and employed as a solvent and extractant.
From May 2006, MTBE has no longer been used in gasoline for US consumption because of liability concerns and is only produced for export and chemical end-uses. In Europe, some MTBE producers have converted their plants to make ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE) using bioethanol. Demand is growing in the Middle East and Asia, and northeast Asia will be the region with the largest demand by 2010.
MTBE is produced by reacting isobutene with methanol over a catalyst bed. The reaction can take place in either a liquid phase or mixed gas-liquid phase reactor containing an acidic ion exchange resin.
Methyl tertiary butyl ether is a colourless, flammable liquid with a characteristic ether odour. MTBE is an extremely flammable liquid and will readily ignite at room temperature.
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Over 90% of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) production has been used in gasoline as an octane booster and oxygenate. MTBE has been favoured over ethanol because of its transportability, superior performance in reducing benzene and formaldehyde in gasoline, and its lower volatile organic compound content.
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Methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) is produced by reacting isobutene with methanol over a catalyst bed. The isobutene can be obtained from a number sources: a C4 stream from a steam cracker with the butadiene removed (know as Raffinate-1 which is a mixture of isobutene and 1- and 2-butenes); butene-butane fractions from a catalytic cracker; and n-butane (from LPG) which is isomerised to isobutane and then dehydrogenated to isobutene. Lyondell (Arco) derives isobutene from the dehydration of t-butyl alcohol which is coproduced in its propylene oxide process.
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