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BASF and Lutianhua plan to pilot a new DME production process that significantly reduces CO2 emissions

By Gerald Ondrey |

BASF SE (Ludwigshafen, Germany; www.basf.com) and Sichuan Lutianhua Co., Ltd. (Lutianhua; China; www.sclth.com) today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to co-develop a pilot production plant, that will significantly reduce carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency in producing dimethyl ether (DME) from synthesis gas (syngas) compared to the traditional process. DME is a methanol equivalent and can be used as an intermediate to produce lower olefins like ethylene and propylene. Currently, DME is produced via methanol as an intermediate from syngas.

According to the MoU, Lutianhua will invest and build the plant with a step-change technology that is developed by BASF and Linde AG (Munich, Germany; www.linde.com). BASF will supply new, high-performance catalyst systems that enable one-step conversion of syngas to DME while Linde will provide its newly developed process design and engineering for direct DME synthesis (see Chem. Eng. February 2019, p. 9; www.chemengonline.com/new-catalysts-enable-co2-neutral-olefins-production-via-methane-reforming. The pilot plant is planned to be built in 2020. The cooperation has been facilitated by the newly established Open Innovation Platform of China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Federation (CPCIF).

 “The Open Innovation Platform is designated to promote cooperation among industry leaders for technological breakthroughs and industrial transformation,” says Li Shousheng, chairman, CPCIF at the signing ceremony. “The BASF-Lutianhua partnership shows a great example of how we live up to our purpose.”

As a major chemical producer in China, Lutianhua is one of the first companies to adopt advanced technologies and techniques to produce synthetic ammonia and urea with natural gas as a raw material. “We have well-established production capabilities and are always keen to apply new technologies and processes,” says Tan Guangjun, chairman of Lutianhua. “We are excited to work with BASF in making the production of key chemicals more environmentally friendly.”

The step-change process is enabled by the new, high-performance catalyst systems developed by BASF researchers. Linde’s novel process design is providing significant energy and CO2 emission reductions. BASF and Linde jointly developed the new direct DME synthesis technology over the past few years. “The cooperation between BASF, Linde and Lutianhua is a further example of our successful approach to collaboration with engineering companies and technology providers. We contribute our unique know-how as a world leading catalyst manufacturer, and together with our partners, drive the implementation of new processes and innovative future technologies,” says Detlef Ruff, senior vice president, Process Catalysts at BASF.

“Climate protection is firmly embedded in BASF’s corporate strategy. This collaboration will help our customers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” says Zheng Daqing, senior vice president, Business and Market Development Greater China, BASF. “We will continue working closely with Lutianhua on this revolutionary project for the sustainable development of China’s chemical industry.”

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