By Liz White, UT staff
Düsseldorf, Germany-Degussa AG and plant engineering partner Uhde have sold a licence to Korean group SKC of Seoul for their process to make propylene oxide from hydrogen peroxide-called the HPPO route.
SKC will bring a 100 kilotonnes-per-annum HPPO facility on stream at its site in Ulsan at the beginning of 2008, said a 10 May announcement from Degussa
According to Degussa, the Korean chemical company will serve the "strongly growing demand for PO in the Asian market," from this new plant. Propylene oxide is one of the major raw materials for making polyurethanes.
To supply hydrogen peroxide to the plant, DegussaHeadwaters Korea-a 50:50 joint venture between Degussa and American company Headwaters, Inc.-has bought a hydrogen peroxide facility in Ulsan from Finnish company Kemira Oyj, Helsinki. The JV has an exclusive supply contract for SKC's PO plant.
DegussaHeadwaters Korea will more than double the annual capacity of this facility from its current 34 ktpa, with the aim of further expanding its market position, "especially in the dynamic economic region of Asia," said Degussa's statement.
Düsseldorf-based Degussa said the HPPO route is "a far-reaching breakthrough" for its hydrogen peroxide business, which has more than 550 ktpa capacity. Degussa claims to be the world's second-largest producer of hydrogen peroxide, which it calls an "environmentally-compatible bleaching and oxidisation agent."
Our successful process innovation has opened up a gateway to an extremely attractive growth market for Degussa: In future, hydrogen peroxide will not only be used to bleach paper and pulp but also employed in large quantities for chemical synthesis," commented Degussa chairman Prof. Utz-Hellmuth Felcht, in the company statement.
"The major propylene oxide producers are already planning for their facilities to have an annual capacity of at least 250 kt of PO. These would each require more than 180 kt of hydrogen peroxide a year," the Degussa chairman added.
Other producers are using the HPPO route, which is not exclusive to Degussa/Uhde. Dow Chemical Co. and BASF AG are together building a 300 ktpa PO plant at Antwerp, Belgium, using a HPPO route developed together. The two major polyurethane sector suppliers are also assessing the feasibility of additional HPPO plants in the US and Asia-the latter being a priority, Dow said recently.
The HPPO route produces only PO and water, with no by-products. It also offers smaller plants, needing less infrastructure and needs smaller investment than traditional PO routes, which also produce styrene monomer.
Degussa and Uhde's HPPO process reacts H2O2 and propylene, using a special catalyst, supplied by Degussa. "A significantly lower investment volume makes this technology much more economically viable than the production process currently employed," Degussa said. Also, it is "extremely environmentally compatible, because apart from water no significant quantities of by-products are produced," the German chemicals group said.
Another advance from Degussa and Headwaters is a catalytic direct synthesis for hydrogen peroxide (DSHP), which Degussa said will be commercially available starting 2007. Combining the HPPO process with DSHP "offers additional cost advantages" over conventional PO routes, Degussa added.
The picture shows the hydrogen peroxide plant in Korea, bought to supply the SKC PO plant."