(764d) An Innovative Process for the Production of Polymer Grade Propylene From Propane | AIChE

(764d) An Innovative Process for the Production of Polymer Grade Propylene From Propane


Gadewar, S. B., GRT, Inc.

The availability of natural gas from shale basins has had a
profound impact on the U.S. Petrochemical Industry by decreasing
costs of both raw materials and energy. The price of US natural gas has
declined from $12.50/MBTU in 2008 to approximately $3.00/MBTU in 2012, with
prices expected to decline even further.[1]  Shale gas has also resulted in the
availability of tremendous quantities of low cost natural gas liquids (ethane,
propane and butane) recovered as byproducts of natural gas processing which have
the potential to transform the chemical industry.  It has already made a significant impact on the
ethylene industry, as a number of producers have switched the feedstock for
their steam crackers from naphtha to ethane for higher yield and lower production

Propylene is one of the largest commodity chemicals in the
world with an annual worldwide demand of ~ 70 million metric tons, and
projected growth at over 6% per year.  Propylene
is primarily produced (~94%) as a co-product of naphtha cracking (ethylene is
the primary product) and FCC units in refineries (gasoline is the primary
product).  As ethylene manufactures
switch feedstock from naphtha to ethane, combined with a reduced gasoline
demand, co-production will not be able to satisfy the growing demand for
propylene.  It is estimated that by 2020,
~ 20% of propylene demand will be satisfied by on-purpose technologies.  This shortfall in supply, coupled with the
availability of inexpensive propane from shale gas, has resulted in significant
interest in the manufacture of on-purpose propylene from propane.  The only commercially available technology
for achieving this is propane dehydrogenation (PDH) from UOP (Oleflex) and
Lummus Technology (CATOFIN).

As a result of a multi-year research and development effort,
GRT Inc., has developed a proprietary technology for the sustainable production
of high purity (polymer grade) propylene using propane as the feedstock.  In the GRT process, propane is first reacted
with bromine under relatively mild conditions to produce propyl bromide and
HBr.  Propyl bromide is subsequently
dehydrobrominated in the presence of a catalyst to produce
propylene and HBr.  All of the HBr
produced in the process is recovered and reacted with oxygen from air over a
catalyst to form bromine and water.  The
water produced is discharged from the process, while the bromine is recycled to
the bromination step.

Based on capital and operating cost estimation performed by
a top-tier Engineering Company, compared to current state of the art propane
dehydrogenation (PDH) processes, the GRT process has a number of important advantages:

Highly selective production of propylene; no
significant byproducts

Simple energy efficient separations; no
propane/propylene splitter or cold box

Minimal coke formation ? infrequent de-coking
and simple reactor design

No refrigeration

~ 9% improvement in feedstock conversion
efficiency (98% vs. 90%)

21% reduction in energy requirements

82% reduction in CO2 emission

30% reduction in capital cost (450 kta plant)

These advantages result in a total cost of production
advantage of ~ $200 per metric ton of propylene. 

This paper describes the GRT propane-to-propylene process in
detail, including the underlining chemistry, catalyst development, engineering
design/analysis, and economic analysis.  The
paper also discusses next steps for technology commercialization.

[1] Scamuffa, Anthony, et. al. PriceWaterhouseCoopers
LLP (2012) Shale gas: Reshaping the
US chemicals industry