Degussa Headwaters Pilot Plant Validates New Technology

Degussa Headwaters, a joint venture between Degussa AG, Dusseldorf, Germany, and Headwaters, Inc., South Jordan, Utah, has successfully integrated its pilot plant for direct synthesis hydrogen peroxide (DSHP) into the pilot plant for manufacturing propylene oxide (PO) using Degussa-Uhde technology. The joint venture thus reached an important milestone in developing and marketing the direct synthesis of H2O2. It also marks the first time that propylene oxide has been generated from hydrogen peroxide by means of the DSHP process. DegussaHeadwaters expects to complete its development of the new DSHP process by end of 2006, making the technology commercially available in 2007.

The industrial process for the direct synthesis uses a nanocatalyst developed by Headwaters to react hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) to form hydrogen peroxide. “The hydrogen peroxide is produced as a dilute solution in methanol and can be directly converted into propylene oxide in the PO process,” explains Dr. Thomas Haas, general manager of DegussaHeadwaters. He emphasizes, “Our direct synthesis operates below the explosion limit, ensuring a safe process.“ Ray Balée, vice president and general manager of Headwaters NanoKinetix, says, “Pilot plant performance results demonstrate the value of both our NxCatTM technology and the accomplishments of our innovative nanocatalyst development team.“ Headwaters is steadily expanding its catalyst production so that it can provide the nanocatalyst in commercial quantities.

Direct synthesis is expected to provide a highly cost-effective process for the production of H2O2 as an intermediate product for chemical synthesis. José Berges, vice president and general manager of New Technologies, in Degussa's Active Oxygens Business Line, says, “Versus conventional technology, we project that we can reduce our investment cost for integrated H2O2 plants by one-third to one-half.“ He adds that the customer interest is very strong. This applies, he says, to both the major PO producers as well as to potential new players. In his estimation, the direct synthesis route to H2O2 developed by DegussaHeadwaters, combined with the Degussa-Uhde technology for propylene oxide, will greatly reduce the cost of producing propylene oxide in the future. Propylene oxide is a starting material for polyurethane, which is used in applications such as cushions and car seats. While Degussa itself will not produce propylene oxide commercially, it believes that the the new H2O2 produced from direct synthesis by the DegussaHeadwaters joint venture offers significant market opportunities. Berges also envisions applications in the chemical synthesis of other major chemicals such as caprolactam, phenol, and epichlorohydrin.

Posted 15th March 2005

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