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Comment Processing & Handling

Catalytic ethane-cracking process allows lower-temperature operation

By Scott Jenkins |

Aither Chemicals LLC (South Charleston, W.Va.; www.aitherchemicals.com) is planning to build a commercial-scale plant based on a catalytic ethane-cracking process that uses 80% less energy and generates 60% less carbon dioxide than conventional steam-cracking of ethane.  The company has refined a mixed metal-oxide catalyst that was originally developed by Union Carbide in the 1980s. The catalyst contains molybdenum, niobium, calcium, vanadium and others that are part of Aither’s proprietary technology. Around the catalyst, Aither has built a streamlined and highly scalable process that Aither CEO Leonard Dolhert says can save money both on the operational side, as well as the capital expenditure side. “Because the reaction is exothermic and runs at a much lower temperature (350°C) than steam cracking, the energy use is greatly lowered,” Dolhert says. On the capital side, the process generates very little co-product, and the only one it does produce acetic acid is much easier to separate than the hydrocarbon co-products found in steam-cracking operations. The demonstration plant uses commercial-scale tube reactors for the catalytic cracking, which makes the scaleup very straightforward, Dolhert says.…
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