🏭 Electrofuels are just fuels
HIF Global and DAC-based electrofuels, crude to chemicals in South Korea, and acetone.
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From the condenser:
· HIF Global and DAC-based electrofuels
· Crude to chemicals in South Korea
· MOTD: acetone
Investments are being made in electrofuels
Porsche-backed e-fuel producer, HIF Global, is planning to trial direct air capture (DAC) technology from Baker Hughes subsidiary, Mosaic Materials.
There’s a few components to this one, but the best place to start is e-fuels, which effectively translates to: traditional hydrocarbon fuels, except produced via some synthesis of green hydrogen and a) carbon monoxide (CO), or b) carbon dioxide (CO2). That should sound pretty familiar—the synthesis of hydrogen and CO is widely used to make methanol or a plethora of long chain hydrocarbons, and the introduction of CO2 has recently become a hot topic.
Breaking it down:
HIF Global recently started operating its first site, located in Chile, which combines green hydrogen (produced via water electrolysis) with captured CO2 (its source is uncertain) to make methanol, which is then converted into gasoline with Exxon’s MTG process. Mosaic, who was recently acquired by Baker Hughes, enters the scene from the CO2 side of the equation with their metal-organic framework (MOF) for CO2 adsorption. They're looking to validate those MOFs at scale, and HIF is going to give it a spin.
Taking a step back:
When we talk about emission reductions, we usually do so in terms of scope: inherited emissions (scope 1), emissions produced form the company’s operations (scope 2), and emissions produced by the use of the company’s products (scope 3). For something like gasoline, the majority of the emissions come from scope 3, so projects like this one, while objectively less emissions-intensive than traditional routes, evade the elephant in the room. Not to mention the efficiency issues the e-fuel route faces as well. (No matter how you slice it, DAC will be less efficient that point source capture.)
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Breaking ground on crude to chemicals
SABIC's subsidiary, S-Oil, broke ground on its $7 billion petrochemical complex, which features a crude to chemicals (C2C) unit at S-Oil's refinery in Ulsan, South Korea.
The petrochemical industry is built on just a small fraction of the barrel. In a drastic oversimplification: we start with mixture of hydrocarbons (crude oil), separate the small molecules from the big ones (distillation), sell what we can as fuels and lubricant oils, and then blast the rest in steam crackers to make olefins. This way of doing things converts about 5-20% of a barrel of crude oil into petrochemicals—C2C is meant to push that fraction closer to 70%.
So, what's going on here?
C2C has been talked about for quite a while now, but for all of its hype we have yet to see it implemented at a meaningful scale. The unit going up in Ulsan, set for start up in 2026, will be the first of its kind. Today’s announcement is really just an update on the project, which can be summarized in short as, “it’s actually happening”.
We talk about C2C because the process technology is an interesting response to an expected decline in gasoline demand—it's an admission that the fuel value of crude oil is depleting, but also an insistence that its material value will persist. In this case that material value is realized in LLDPE (mostly for plastic films and sheets) and HDPE (mostly for piping), which begs the question: is crude oil the best feedstock of choice for incremental LLDPE and HDPE capacity?
Some more headlines
- LyondellBasell decided to to acquire Mepol Group
- GenH2 and Chart Industries ink will work together on hydrogen liquefaction systems
- The US sanctioned 39 companies who were facilitating Iranian petrochemical sales
- Evonik expanded production capacity for DL-methionine in Singapore
- BASF started up its Sovermol® production in Mangalore, India
Molecule of The Day
Today's MOTD is a personal favorite…acetone.
First produced byAndreas Libavius in 1606 as he casually distilled lead acetate, this molecule is best known as the main ingredient in nail polish remover and paint thinner.
While acetone may have got its frame from those uses, only about a third of the world's acetone is used as a solvent. A quarter of it used to makeBPA, another quarter is used to make the precursor to methyl methacrylate, and about 10% is used to make MIBK.
Virtually all acetone (roughly 7 million tons per year globally) is produced from propylene in some form or fashion. That's either by the cumene process(83%), the Wacker process, or through isopropyl alcohol as an intermediate. Some of the largest producers of the molecule include Ineos, Shell, and Borealis.
- Safety Moment: Watch this case study from the CSB to learn about the ammonium nitrate-based fertilizer explosion at the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas.
- Course: We think of chemical plants in terms of unit operations. To understand the industry you need to learn about those units.*
- Podcast: Check out this episode featuring Dr. Frank Slejko on water treatment in various industries, incumbent technologies, and innovations.
- Book: You need to understand the forces behind the oil industry to understand the chemical industry. Daniel Yergin's The New Map does a great job breaking it down.*
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