The conversion of methanol to olefins (MTO) is a means to produce ethylene and propylene from feedstock derived from sources other than crude oil or condensates. Methanol is widely produced from natural gas or coal at locations with abundant reserves. By utilizing methanol derived from these cost advantaged raw materials, MTO enables low costs of production for ethylene and propylene in a world with high oil prices. MTO also helps to fill the gap between propylene demand and supply from steam crackers and refineries by producing olefins at high ratios of propylene to ethylene.
A major milestone for MTO commercialization was the startup of the semi-commercial, fully integrated MTO demonstration unit in Belgium in 2009. This demonstration unit includes a complete MTO process with product recovery and purification as well as an olefin cracking process (OCP) to maximize the yields of ethylene and propylene. A semi-commercial polymer demonstration unit is also included downstream to demonstrate the direct production of polyethylene and polypropylene using various polymer catalysts. This paper reviews the development history and the scale-up of MTO technology and the results of the successful demonstration of olefin and polyolefin production using advanced MTO technology as well as the integration of advanced OCP technology.
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