BASF Aktiengesellschaft (BASF) and The Dow Chemical Company (Dow) today launched a long-term venture to produce propylene oxide (PO) at the world’s first commercial-scale hydrogen peroxide propylene oxide (HPPO) plant at BASF’s site in Antwerp, Belgium. This plant uses a new technology developed jointly by BASF and Dow. PO is a core ingredient for the $21 billion a year polyurethane industry. Solvay S.A. (Solvay) will be a key supplier to the new, innovative facility.
The innovative process technology offers a number of benefits over conventional routes to PO, including better economics, environmental improvements and flexibility for locating new plants.
The HPPO plant will be fed with hydrogen peroxide (HP) from a second new plant at the Antwerp site. The HP plant will have a capacity of 230,000 metric tons per year and will be constructed by Solvay, BASF and Dow. The 300,000 metric tons per year HPPO plant, which is being built jointly by BASF and Dow, is scheduled to start up in early 2008.
Today, Belgium Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt joined Dow’s Chairman and Chief Executive, Andrew Liveris, Solvay’s Chairman of the Executive Committee, Christian Jourquin, and BASF’s Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors, Dr. Jürgen Hambrecht, at the project’s official groundbreaking ceremony. Each of them planted a tree to commemorate the start of construction and to symbolize the growth opportunities and the environmental benefits generated by the innovative HPPO process.
A partnership in innovation
“HPPO is an exciting technology that supports Dow’s focus on sustainability through greater energy efficiency, reduced physical footprint and improved environmental performance, while at the same time, providing attractive economics,” said Dow’s Andrew Liveris. “Through innovation and our partnership with BASF, this HPPO technology expedites our drive for sustainability.”
BASF’s Jürgen Hambrecht said: “The HPPO plant will further strengthen our successful polyurethanes business. With Dow and Solvay, we have two strong partners in implementing this innovative technology.”
“Today is an important milestone in an exciting industrial project, based on the most advanced proprietary technology. This impressive realization is a tribute to our longstanding and successful co-operation with BASF and Dow. We are happy and proud that BASF and Dow chose our technology for this important project”, said Christian Jourquin.
In 2003, Dow and BASF began their joint process research program to develop and commercialize the HPPO technology. This partnership allowed the two companies to combine their innovation strengths and thereby commercialize the technology more rapidly than would have been possible by either partner alone.
Dow and BASF are considering the development of additional HPPO projects in other regions, including Asia. BASF also plans to utilize the HPPO technology with a project at its Geismar, Louisiana, site in the United States.
The benefits of HPPO
Compared with conventional PO process technologies, HPPO offers unique benefits in three areas: economic, environmental and opportunities for future growth.
New PO plants built using the HPPO technology are more economical because they:
- Require up to 25 percent less capital to build.
- Avoid the need for additional infrastructure or markets for co-products, as the process produces only PO and water.
- Require simpler raw material integration-just hydrogen peroxide and propylene are needed as raw materials.
The new HPPO technology brings environmental improvements to the PO industry, by:
- Reducing wastewater by 70 to 80 percent, compared with existing PO technology.
- Reducing energy usage by 35 percent, compared with existing PO technology.
- Reducing infrastructure and physical footprint with simpler raw material integration and avoidance of co-products.
HPPO technology requires only propylene and hydrogen peroxide, and produces only the desired end-product, PO, and water, allowing for a new PO plant to be located at a wider range of chemical facilities. HPPO technology provides flexibility when selecting future new plant sites, by avoiding:
- Complex raw material needs and the associated infrastructure.
- Co-product production, such as styrene monomer or propylene dichloride, which require conventional PO plants to be located in large, integrated chemical complexes, where the co-products can be used in other processes.
PO manufacturing joint venture
In February 2006, Dow and BASF signed a manufacturing joint venture agreement to construct and operate a new PO manufacturing facility using the co-developed HPPO technology. Both companies have equal rights to the HPPO technology and receive half of the capacity of the Antwerp plant.
At the same time, Solvay and BASF established a joint venture to construct a 230,000 metric tons per year HP plant at the Antwerp site based on Solvay’s high productivity HP technology. A partnership was subsequently set up by this joint venture and Dow for the financing of the HP plant, which is scheduled to come on stream in 2008. The new HP plant will be the largest single-train HP plant in the world.
Uses of propylene oxide
Propylene oxide (PO) is a versatile chemical intermediate used in the production of raw materials for a wide range of industrial and commercial products, including polyurethanes, propylene glycols and glycol ethers.
Polyurethanes make life better, safer and more comfortable. They are used in products for sports and leisure activities, in the home and the car, and for many items from armrests, steering wheels, mattresses and headrests, to refrigerators, cable sheathing, shoe soles and roller skates. With its versatile properties, this plastic material improves our quality of life wherever it’s used.
Propylene glycols are used in a wide variety of end-use and industrial applications, from unsaturated polyester resins, cosmetics and household detergents to paints, aircraft and runway deicers and automotive brake fluids. Propylene glycol ethers are commonly used as solvents and coupling agents in paints and in the production of coatings, inks, resins and cleaners.
PO is also used to manufacture propoxylated or specialty organic compounds, including flame retardants, modified carbohydrates (starches), synthetic lubricants and oil field drilling chemicals.
Hydrogen peroxide (HP) is used for its oxidizing properties in applications such as bleaching paper and textile, the treatment of effluents, in pharmacology and as an intermediate in the chemical industry. Hydrogen peroxide breaks down into water and oxygen. As a consequence, its utilization for the production of Propylene oxide generates no byproducts and no residue - except water. Likewise, the HP route could bring environmental benefits to processes for the production of a number of other chemicals.