Business Update: March 2023 | AIChE

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Business Update: March 2023

Business Update

Iran is going to make ethanol from natural gas

Iranian chemical company, Zagros Petrochemical, has selected China’s Dalian Petrochemical’s methanol-to-ethanol process technology for a new plant in Iran.

Ethanol 101. Today, virtually all of the ethanol produced is made by fermenting glucose, and that glucose typically comes from starch. Most of that ethanol then ends up being used as a gasoline oxygenate, as a solvent or disinfectant, or as a feedstock to make ethyl acrylate, ethyl acetate, and ethylamines.

So, what’s the deal here? For various reasons — such as anti-alcohol laws, a semi-arid climate, and salty soil — Iran has historically imported all of its ethanol. That was already set to change to a lesser degree when the country’s first fermentation-based site starts up in a few months, but now, with this new methanol-to-ethanol site on the horizon, Iran will no longer need to import any ethanol.

Zooming out. Producing ethanol from methanol starts with converting natural gas into syngas, and then converting that syngas into methanol. For Iran, going the petrochemical route means: reduced need to import/cultivate starchy feedstocks; higher yields and scaling efficiencies that can’t be achieved via fermentation; and greater local valorization of domestically produced natural gas...

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