Degussa Makes Peroxide Breakthrough That Will Benefit Polyurethane and License Technology to SKC

Degussa AG, Dusseldorf, has achieved a far-reaching breakthrough in its hydrogen peroxide business (H2O2). With an annual capacity exceeding 550,000 tonnes, the specialty chemicals company is the world’s second-largest producer of this environmentally-compatible bleaching and oxidization agent. Degussa’s hydrogen peroxide ac-tivities are a significant growth field of its Building Blocks Business Unit, generating sales of 1.1 billion euros in 2005 with around 4,500 employees.

Degussa and Uhde sell license for production of propylene oxide to Korean firm SKC

Together with the high-tech engineering company Uhde, Dortmund, Degussa has developed an innovative process for producing pro-pylene oxide (PO) from H2O2, the so-called HPPO process. The Korean company SKC, Seoul, has now acquired a license for this. SKC is to bring a HPPO facility on stream at its site in the Korean town of Ulsan at the beginning of 2008 with an annual capacity of 100,000 tonnes. The Korean chemical company intends the facility to service the strongly growing demand for PO in the Asian market. PO is a raw material for polyurethane, which is used in car fittings and seat upholstery, for example.

DegussaHeadwaters Korea acquires hydrogen peroxide facility and agrees exclusive supply contract

DegussaHeadwaters Korea – a joint venture in which Degussa and the American company Headwaters, Inc., South Jordan, Utah, each holds 50 percent – will exclusively supply the new PO facility in Ulsan with hydrogen peroxide. To enable this the joint venture is acquiring a hydrogen peroxide facility in Ulsan from the Finnish company Kemira Oyj, Helsinki. The transaction remains subject to regulatory approvals. DegussaHeadwaters Korea will more than double the annual capacity of this facility from its current 34,000 tonnes. The joint venture’s aim is to further expand its market posi-tion, especially in the dynamic economic region of Asia.

Degussa Management Board Chairman Prof. Utz-Hellmuth Felcht states: “Our successful process innovation has opened up a gate-way to an extremely attractive growth market for Degussa: In future, hydrogen peroxide will not only be used to bleach paper and pulp but also employed in large quantities for chemical synthesis.“ The major propylene oxide producers are already planning for their fa-cilities to have an annual capacity of at least 250,000 tonnes of PO. These would each require more than 180,000 tonnes of H2O2 a year.

During the innovative Degussa-Uhde HPPO process, H2O2 and propylene react to PO when a special catalyst, also supplied by Degussa, is used. A significantly lower investment volume makes this technology much more economically viable than the production process currently employed. In addition, it is extremely environmentally compatible because apart from water no significant quantities of by-products are produced.

Catalytic direct synthesis of H2O2 as another milestone

Parallel to this progress now achieved, Degussa is also working on another milestone with Headwaters, namely the catalytic direct syn-thesis of H2O2 (DSHP). This DegussaHeadwaters direct synthesis process will be commercially available starting 2007. The combination of the HPPO process with DSHP offers additional cost advan-tages over conventional propylene oxide manufacturing processes.

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