The Korean company SKC of Seoul has commissioned in Ulsan the world's first ever commercial-scale plant for production of propylene oxide by the innovative HPPO process. The plant has an annual capacity of 100,000 metric tons. Evonik Industries, Essen, and Uhde, Dortmund, who jointly developed the HPPO process, have licensed it to SKC. Using a catalyst developed by Evonik, the process produces propylene oxide from propylene and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). The joint venture Evonik Headwaters supplies the H2O2 in Ulsan directly “over the fence” to the HPPO plant.
The commissioning brings Evonik a big step closer to its strategic goal of providing hydrogen peroxide in large quantities for chemical processes such as the HPPO process. Dr. Klaus Engel, Member of the Executive Board of Evonik responsible for the Chemical Business Area, says: “By targeted development of new technologies in collaboration with proven and expert partners, we are opening up an attractive market for hydrogen peroxide.” Engel and Helmut Knauthe, Member of the Uhde Executive Board, are agreed that the production facility in Korea is now a reference point for the construction of further plants using the HPPO process. With an annual capacity exceeding 600,000 metric tons, Evonik is the world's second largest producer of hydrogen peroxide, which has so far been used mainly in paper and pulp bleaching.
SKC supplies propylene oxide produced by the innovative HPPO process to the markets of Korea and its neighboring countries. Propylene oxide is a chemical with above-average sales growth, which is used mainly for production of polyurethane precursors. Polyurethanes are processed into, for example, cushioning for car seats and upholstered furniture.
The advantages of the HPPO process lie in a significantly lower investment volume, resulting in higher profitability than with the conventional production process for propylene oxide. Moreover, the HPPO process is extremely environment-friendly: The yield is high and, apart from water, no by-products are formed in any appreciable quantity. “With environmental regulations becoming increasingly stringent, the novel and by-product free HPPO process is the process of the future,” says Helmut Knauthe.
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