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Xylenes-production process takes advantage of low-cost methanol feedstock

By Scott Jenkins |

A new low-pressure xylenes-production process combines toluene with methanol to yield a xylenes product stream with the possibility of no benzene byproduct. Known as GT-TolAlk and developed by GTC Technology (Houston; www.gtctech.com), the new process requires no hydrogen addition and produces only water as a byproduct. The first facility to use the process is currently in the design phase, and is slated for startup in 2016 at a Chinese petroleum refinery, says David Bridgeman, global licensing manager at GTC. In the process (flowsheet), toluene and methanol are pre-mixed before entering a set of low-pressure, fixed-bed reactors where the aromatic ring of toluene is methylated over a zeolite-based catalyst. Products contain very low ethylbenzene levels, an impurity for xylenes. Bridgeman says the process is heat-integrated, so the overall energy input is modest. The xylenes product proceeds to a recovery and purification stage in which unreacted toluene is recycled back to the beginning of the process. Subsequently, p-xylene is purified in any one of several commercialized routes, also licensed by GTC. Bridgeman says the technology can be built in a new facility, or retrofitted into an existing aromatics complex.
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