🏭 Liquid ethane = the new LNG
Evonik's new battery recycling process and importing ethane into Mexico
Good morning. Is anyone familiar with other examples of exporting ethane for shipment overseas? Why is there a growing market for LNG but not for liquefied ethane?
From the condenser:
· Evonik's new battery recycling process
· Importing ethane into Mexico
· MOTD: ethane
Evonik's upcoming battery recycling process
German specialty chemical company, Evonik, is developing a process to recover the lithium from lithium-ion batteries (LIBs).
If you get deep enough into the LIB conversation, eventually someone will tell you that the production of battery materials isn't sustainable. That's mostly because the cathode materials (lithium and rare earth metals) are sourced from mines. We've talked about a few different companies (Li-Cycle, BASF, and Redwood Materials) who are looking to source those same cathode materials from spent batteries instead. That reduces the demand for mining capacity, reduces transportation requirements, and reduces the amount of accumulated waste.
Breaking it down:
Battery recycling always starts out the same—we collect batteries, disassemble the cells, and grind them up into a black powder. Then, after you have the black powder, you'll either burn it (leaving behind only the rare earth metals) or you'll leach metals from it (all of them) with some aqueous solution. Evonik is suggesting that battery recyclers should leach the rare earth metals out, but extract the lithium later on with their new electrochemical process.
The spike in electric vehicle demand is going to be followed by a spike in spent batteries, and Evonik is hoping that its new process is ready when it comes. If Evonik's process lives up to the hype (nearly 100% pure lithium hydroxide, less water, less energy, and less chemicals), then you'll probably see them license it to various battery recyclers across the globe. We'll have to wait and see. They are meant to build some pilot modules next year and some larger scale units in 2024.
Importing ethane into Mexico overseas
Braskem and Grupo Idesa joint venture (JV), Braskem Idesa, and Netherlands-based storage company, Advario, will start building a $400 million ethane import terminal in Mexico later this year.
A little history:
Braskem Idesa decided to build a $5.4 billion petrochemical complex in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico about a decade ago. The complex, which includes an ethane steam cracker and polyethylene units, started up in 2016 expecting to import ethane provided by Mexico's state-owned Pemex via a pipeline. That has been problematic for Braskem Idesa as domestic Mexican oil production (and its associated gases, including ethane) has rapidly declined since then.
In hopes of keeping the complex operational, Braskem Idesa decided that it would rather rely on ethane imports from the US than on hopes of increased Mexican oil production. The import terminal will receive liquefied ethane by sea, gasify it at the terminal, and then send it down a seven mile pipeline to the ethane cracker.
Importing ethane is not normal, and it was not what Braskem had in mind when they undertook this project. Ethane that has to be liquefied and shipped is going to cost more than gaseous ethane coming down a pipeline, and now they are stuck importing that expensive ethane for the foreseeable future.
Some more headlines:
- Yara is making progress on green ammonia production in Australia
- BASF and Ineos are working together on renewable styrene acrylonitrile copolymer
- Neste's sustainble aviation fuel was received in New Zealand for the first time
- Methanex is getting a new President & CEO starting January 1st, 2023
- Gas rationing in Europe will be problematic for BASF's Ludwigshafen site
Product of The Day:
Today's MOTD is a dear friend, ethane.
While Michael Faraday was able to synthesize the molecule back in 1834, it wasn't until this English chemist found it inside Pennsylvanian crude oil that we realized how much of it is out there.
Today, all of the ethane produced is either a component of natural gas or as a byproduct of petroleum refining. All of that ethane (with a few exceptions) is used as a steam cracking feedstock.
The main companies producing all of this ethane are the ones pumping it out of the ground upstream and the natural gas processors who supply the petrochemical companies.
In case you're interested:
- Course: Want to understand the major refining units like crackers and reformers? This will walk you through all of it.*
- Learn: The Column gets its name from the separation unit processes. Check out this course to learn why mass transfer operations are the core of the industry.*
- Article: Tom Baxter sums up why some politicians are so enamored by hydrogen energy.
- Safety Moment: Watch this video to get a crash course of how Pressure Safety Valves work, their main components, and their applications.
All views represent those of the author not their employer.