The Dow Chemical Company and Snamprogetti, the engineering and main contracting company of Italy's Eni, announced today that both companies are jointly developing a new process for the production of styrene monomer from ethane and benzene. The process, based on proprietary technology, would enable significant cost savings.
"We joined forces with Snamprogetti in the late '90s, combining their catalyst and engineering expertise with our strengths in styrene monomer technology. With this new process, we are moving away from the conventional styrene production process and raw materials," said Theo Walthie, business group president Hydrocarbons & Energy. "A process development unit has been in operation since late 2002. This allows us to test the production process and plant design. The results continue to be very encouraging. We believe that this technology will represent a step change in the costs of styrene production." Furthermore, greater location flexibility will be achieved.
In the dominant production process for styrene monomer today, ethylene and benzene react to form ethylbenzene, which is then dehydrogenated to styrene in the presence of an iron catalyst. "We, and others, have refined and improved this process over the last 65 years and industry is now approaching the point of diminishing returns on incremental improvements," explained Carol Dudley, vice President R&D Core, Hydrocarbons & Chemicals. "The significance of this new process would be that producers can take advantage of a much lower cost feedstock in ethane, eliminating the need for upstream investment in ethylene production at a steam cracker or ethylene purchases."