Lyondell to build one-step propylene oxide pilot plant

By OGJ editors

HOUSTON, Oct. 17 -- Lyondell Chemical Co., Houston, completed lab-scale testing of a one-step, direct oxidation propylene oxide (PO) technology and is ready to pilot the process on a larger scale.

The company plans to build an integrated pilot plant at its Technology Center in Newtown Square, Pa., as a final demonstration of the technology before commercialization, said Ed Dineen, Lyondell senior vice-president of chemicals and polymers. The company processes about 4 billion lb/ year of PO.

The new technology will produce PO without requiring an auxiliary feedstock facility, such as a hydrogen peroxide plant, Dineen said, and it produces PO without a coproduct such as styrene or tertiary butyl alcohol. Consequently, such a plant would require less capital investment than plants using other technologies, and investment decisions would not be influenced by market conditions for coproducts, he said.

Currently, the three leading commercial methods of PO production are Lyondell's propylene oxide-styrene monomer (POSM) process, its propylene oxide-t-butyl alcohol (PO-TBA) process, and a chlorohydrin process.

"We believe the POSM process is the best technology available today to produce PO because of its significantly lower cash costs," Dineen said. "At the same time, we also believe this new one-step direct PO technology offers significant economic advantages."

Lyondell, which has spent more than 40 years exploring PO process technologies, has secured more than 130 US patents in the PO area since 1990.

PO-Cumene process
"We continue to work with Sumitomo Chemical Co. Ltd., our partner in the Nihon Oxirane Co. Ltd. joint venture, on a pioneering PO-Cumene plant in Japan, which is scheduled to be operational in 2003," said Peter Gaines, Lyondell's global vice-president, oxygenated chemicals. "This technology, developed by Sumitomo as part of an ongoing technology cooperation with Lyondell, is particularly suited to the Japanese market where there is currently an oversupply of styrene," Gaines said.

Lyondell also is building a new POSM plant in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, scheduled for start-up in 2003. It is the eleventh PO plant built by Lyondell and will be jointly owned by Lyondell and Bayer.

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