(613e) Scale up and Product Validation of Biomass Derived Sugar to Acrylonitrile Process

Authors: 
Samad, J. E., Southern Research
Goyal, A., Southern Research
Tupsakhare, S., Southern Research
Moskowitz, J., Cytec Carbon Fibers LLC (part of Solvay Composite Materials)
Harmon, B., Cytec Carbon Fibers LLC. (part of Solvay Composite Materials)
Govedarica, Z., Southern Research
Ninety percent of the world’s carbon fiber production utilizes acrylonitrile as a raw material, growing at 9 to 14 percent per year. Due to the high growth rate of carbon fiber production, any reduction in GHG originating from Acrylonitrile production will be highly impactful. Conventionally, acrylonitrile is produced from propylene ammoxidation. However, the current method makes use of an alternative approach using sugars obtained from biomass feedstock. Southern Research in partnership with DOE/EERE is developing a method to provide renewable acrylonitrile produced from biomass-derived second generation sugars.

An innovative, thermo-catalytic process has been developed that converts second generation sugars obtained from biomass to acrylonitrile. The proposed process takes place in three reaction steps starting with biomass derived sugars. In the first reaction step sugars obtained from biomass hydrolysis are hydrocracked to obtain high purity glycerol using a proprietary catalyst. In the second step, a diluted version of glycerol is used for dehydration reaction in which glycerol is converted to acrolein which is then subjected to ammoxidation reaction in the third step to obtain acrylonitrile.

Our previous AIChE presentations have focused on the laboratory scale study and results. Following successful laboratory scale demonstration, the project has moved to bench scale where the process has been scaled up to 1000x. Catalysts have been synthesized in near kg batches and the productivity from each reaction step elevated to almost a kg/hr. In addition to studying catalyst, scale up, life for over 500 hrs. of continuous operation, the collected and purified acrylonitrile (BioACN) from the final step has been validated with the help of the commercial carbon fiber manufacturing partner, Cytec-Solvay. In this part, Cytec-Solvay conducts a systematic study to understand the impact of the extent of each possible impurity present in the BioACN to determine the maximum acceptable amount and provides feedback on final BioACN purification.

This presentation will provide an update of the ongoing bench scale study. The results from long term catalytic tests at this scale will be presented along with how some critical scale up challenges that have been addressed to improve performance. On the product side, the final product validation step will be discussed. Finally an updated comprehensive TEA/LCA study will be presented to highlight process merit and the key drivers.