Business Update: June 2022 | AIChE

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Business Update: June 2022

Business Update

Ineos is making acetonitrile for vaccines


U.K.-based chemical company, Ineos, has announced plans to build an acetonitrile unit at its acrylonitrile plant in Cologne, Germany.

How it’s made. Most of the world’s acetonitrile is made as a byproduct of acrylonitrile production. When you react propylene (from an ethane or naphtha steam cracker) with oxygen and ammonia, you mostly end up with acrylonitrile and water — but a tiny amount of acetonitrile and hydrogen cyanide are produced, too.

That (relatively) small amount of acetonitrile isn’t always worth purifying. When demand for acetonitrile isn’t high enough, or the price isn’t right, the stream containing acetonitrile will be burned as a fuel on-site.

But now they want to purify it? Demand changed. Acetonitrile is used in the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine manufacturing process, and we’re making a lot of vaccines. The manufacture of synthetic mRNA starts with an enzymatic process known as in vitro transcription (IVT) and ends with a purification step called ion pair reverse-phase chromatography. Acetonitrile is the solvent of choice for that...

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