Mitsubishi’s proposed US MMA plant reaches regulatory milestones

Al Greenwood

06-Feb-2024

HOUSTON (ICIS)–A proposed methyl methacrylate (MMA) plant that Mitsubishi Chemical America plans to build in Louisiana has reached a couple of regulatory milestones, although the company has yet to announce a final investment decision (FID).

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) scheduled a public hearing for the project for 1 February.

Earlier in 2023, the regulator made a preliminary determination to approve construction of the project.

The plant, called the MCA Geismar Site, is proposed to be built in Ascension parish, and it will produce 350,000 tonnes/year using the company’s Alpha process technology.

The site will also include a carbon monoxide (CO) plant, a methanol plant and a formalin plant.

This will be the third plant that features the Alpha process, which uses ethylene, methanol and CO to make MMA.

ETHYLENE BASED MMA MAY UPEND MARKET
MMA is typically made from acetone, which was a co-product of phenol production.

Mitsubishi as well as Roehm are building MMA plants that use ethylene and methanol instead of acetone as a feedstock.

Roehm calls its process technology LiMA, and it will be used in a 250,000 tonne/year plant it is building on the Gulf Coast.

If these new technologies proliferate, then they would create a new end-use for ethylene, and they could slow down the growth for a traditional outlet for acetone.

Not only could that have ramifications for acetone, but the new MMA technologies could also affect phenol markets. Phenol and acetone are both coproducts and are ultimately derived from benzene and propylene via cumene.

Thumbnail shows polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), which is made with MMA. Image by Shutterstock. 

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