- The Column
- 🏭 Co-products or by-products
🏭 Co-products or by-products
Evonik and Thyssenkrupp Udhe's latest HPPO plant, plus vinyl chloride.
Good morning. I hope everyone had a nice long Labor Day weekend! Quick poll:
Are you familiar with the HPPO process?
(That's what today's new update is about.)
Making more PO without the extras
Chinese chemical producer, Qixiang Tengda, started up a new hydrogen peroxide to propylene oxide (HPPO) plant in Zibo City, China using Evonik and Thyssenkrupp Udhe’s process technology.
A little context:
Today, the world produces more than 10 million tons of propylene oxide (PO) each year. About 70% of it is used to make polyether polyols (which become polyurethanes), 20% becomes propylene glycol (to make UPRs and anti-freeze), and the rest mainly becomes propylene glycol ethers (used as solvents). Most of that PO is made via the chlorohydrin and peroxidation (PO/SM and PO/TBA) processes, not HPPO.
So, what’s up with HPPO?
The conventional routes to PO come with co-products, which is fine when those co-products are as valuable (or more valuable) and in demand as PO, but that’s rarely the case. HPPO is co-product free: the hydrogen-peroxide-based epoxidation of propylene is catalyzed with titanium silicalite in methanol—PO and water is produced, and the methanol is recycled. (If you’re curious, they actually provide a solid walk though of the process here.)
This all started in 2001 when Evonik (a leader producer of hydrogen peroxide) initiated an exclusive partnership with Thyssenkrupp. The process was piloted in 2008, the first world scale site was built in 2014, and now this site in Zibo City is the fourth of its kind. Expect to see more of these sites. Demand for polyurethanes is still growing, this is a high value route for hydrogen peroxide (it’s basically this or bleach), and HPPO seems to be superior on all fronts. If you have a different take, let me know.
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Some more headlines
BASF broke ground on its syngas plant at Zhanjiang Verbund site in China
Technip Energies is offering pre-commissioned natural gas liquefaction plants
Dow Chemical and Qifan Cable are working together on submarine off-shore wind turbine cables
Pyran started selling small quantities of its 1,5-pentanediol
Blackrock now owns more than 5% of Solvay's voting rights
Molecule of The Day
Today's MOTD is a great conversation starter, it's vinyl chloride.
Despite its sweet odor, this molecule is a highly toxic and carcinogenic intermediate that serves one single purpose—to produce polyvinyl chloride (that's PVC). Today, we produce about 60 million tons of vinyl chloride (commonly referred to as VCM) each year to do just that.
While the molecule was first synthesized in 1835, it wasn't until Waldo Semon figured out how to make PVC less brittle that we started make tons of this stuff. About half of the world's VCM is made by thermally cracking EDC (which is made by the direct chlorination of ethylene), and the other half is made by reacting acetylene with hydrogen chloride. The acetylene half of production is done almost entirely in China thanks to the region's vast coal and lime resources that make acetylene relatively cheap.
The main producers of VCM are the same ones who make PVC—think of Westlake Chemical, OxyChem, Shintech, and Formosa.
Safety Moment: Read this article to learn more about static electricity, its effects within the workplace, and how to mitigate a fires from static electricity discharge.
Podcast: Check out this episode featuring Dr. Judy Giordan on sustainability in the chemical industry.
Course: Want a complete overview of the major petrochemicals and how we make them? This will cover all the bases.