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Patent Issued for Process for Conditioning a High Efficiency Ethylene Oxide Catalyst

September 9, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Life Science Weekly -- A patent by the inventors Zhang, Liping (Lake Jackson, TX); Tupe, Ravindra Radhakisan (Helsinki, FI); Phillips, Ailene Gardner (Charleston, WV); Hinman, Paul Victor (Charleston, WV); Soo, Hwaili (Charleston, WV), filed on April 3, 2012, was published online on August 26, 2014, according to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by NewsRx correspondents (see also Dow Technology Investments LLC).

Patent number 8815769 is assigned to Dow Technology Investments LLC (Midland, MI).

The following quote was obtained by the news editors from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Ethylene oxide has a multiplicity of utilities. Ethylene oxide, for example, is used to produce ethylene glycol, which is used as an automotive coolant, as antifreeze, and in preparing polyester fibers and resins, nonionic surfactants, glycol ethers, ethanolamines, and polyethylene polyether polyols.

"The production of ethylene oxide via catalytic epoxidation of ethylene in the presence of oxygen using silver based catalysts is known. Conventional silver-based catalysts used in such processes typically provide a relatively lower efficiency or 'selectivity' (i.e., a lower percentage of the reacted ethylene is converted to the ethylene oxide). In certain exemplary processes, when using conventional catalysts in the epoxidation of ethylene, the theoretically maximal efficiency towards ethylene oxide, expressed as a fraction of the ethylene converted, does not reach values above the 6/7 or 85.7 percent limit. Therefore, this limit had long been considered to be the theoretically maximal efficiency of this reaction, based on the stoichiometry of the following reaction equation: 7C.sub.2H.sub.4+6O.sub.2.fwdarw.6C.sub.2H.sub.4O+2CO.sub.2+2H.s- ub.2O

"cf. Kirk-Othmer's Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, 4th ed., Vol. No. 9, 1994, p. 926.

"Certain 'high efficiency' or 'high selectivity' modern silver-based catalysts are highly selective towards ethylene oxide production. For example, when using certain modern catalysts in the epoxidation of ethylene, the theoretically maximal efficiency towards ethylene oxide can reach values above the 6/7 or 85.7 percent limit referred to, for example 88 percent or 89 percent, or above. As used herein, the terms 'high efficiency catalyst' and 'high selectivity catalyst' refer to a catalyst that is capable of producing ethylene oxide from ethylene and oxygen at an efficiency greater than 85.7 percent. The observed actual efficiency of a high efficiency catalyst may fall below 85.7 percent under certain conditions based on process variables, catalyst age, etc. However, if the catalyst is capable of achieving at least an 85.7 percent efficiency at any point during its life, for example, under any set of reaction conditions as described in the Examples hereinafter, or by extrapolating lower efficiencies observed at two different oxygen conversions obtained by varying gas hourly space velocity to the limiting case of zero oxygen conversion, it is considered to be a high efficiency catalyst. Such highly efficient catalysts, which may comprise as their active components silver, rhenium, at least one further metal, and optionally, a rhenium co-promoter, are disclosed in EP0352850B1 and in several subsequent patent publications. 'Promoters,' sometimes referred to as 'inhibitors' or 'moderators,' refer to materials that enhance the performance of the catalysts by either increasing the rate towards the desired formation of ethylene oxide and/or suppressing the rate towards the undesirable oxidation of ethylene or ethylene oxide to carbon dioxide and water. As used herein, the term 'co-promoter' refers to a material that--when combined with a promoter--increases the promoting effect of the promoter.

"'Promoters' can be materials that are introduced to catalysts during the preparation of the catalysts (solid phase promoters). In addition, 'promoters' can also be gaseous materials that are introduced to the epoxidation reactor feed (gas phase promoters). In one example, an organic halide gas phase promoter may be added continuously to the epoxidation reactor feed to increase the catalyst efficiency. For silver-based ethylene epoxidation catalysts, both solid and gas phase promoters are typically required in any commercial processes.

"Conventional catalysts have relatively flat efficiency curves with respect to the gas phase promoter concentration in the feed, i.e., the efficiency is almost invariant (i.e., the change in efficiency with respect to a change in gas phase promoter concentration in the feed is less than about 0.1%/ppm) over a wide range of promoter concentrations, and this invariance is substantially unaltered as reaction temperature is changed (i.e., the change in efficiency with respect to a change in reaction temperature is less than about 0.1%/.degree. C.) during prolonged operation of the catalyst. However, conventional catalysts have nearly linear activity decline curves with respect to the gas phase promoter concentration in the feed, i.e., with increasing gas phase promoter concentration in the feed, temperature has to be increased or the ethylene oxide production rate will be reduced. Therefore, when using a conventional catalyst, for optimum efficiency, the gas phase promoter concentration in the feed can be chosen at a level at which the maximum efficiency can be maintained at relatively lower operating temperatures. Typically, the gas phase promoter concentration can remain substantially the same during the entire lifetime of a conventional catalyst. Alternatively, the reactor temperature may be adjusted to obtain a desired production rate without any substantial impact on efficiency due to non-optimal gas phase promoter concentrations.

"By contrast, high efficiency catalysts tend to exhibit relatively steep efficiency curves as a function of gas phase promoter concentration as the concentration moves away from the value that provides the highest efficiency (i.e., the change in efficiency with respect to a change in gas phase promoter concentration is at least about 0.2%/ppm when operating away from the efficiency maximizing concentration). Thus, small changes in the promoter concentration can result in significant efficiency changes, and the efficiency exhibits a pronounced maximum, i.e., an optimum, at certain concentrations (or feed rates) of the gas phase promoter for a given reaction temperature and catalyst age. Moreover, the efficiency curves and the optimum gas phase promoter concentration tend to be strong functions of reactor temperature and are thus significantly affected if reactor temperature is varied, for example, to compensate for decreases in catalyst activity, (i.e., the change in efficiency with respect to a change in reactor temperature can be at least about 0.1%/.degree. C. when operating away from the efficiency maximizing promoter concentrations for the selected temperatures). In addition, high efficiency catalysts have exhibited significant activity increases with increases in the gas phase promoter concentration in the feed, i.e., with increasing gas phase promoter concentration in the feed, temperature has to be decreased or the production rate will increase.

"High-efficiency catalysts for producing ethylene oxide are frequently conditioned or activated prior to start-up to improve their activity and/or efficiency. Conditioning and activation processes typically involve flowing a non-reactive medium through the heated catalyst. Conditioning processes typically take place prior to the start of ethylene oxide production. Activation processes can take place both before and after starting ethylene oxide production. However, as used herein, the term 'conditioning' refers to processes occurring either before or after start-up. The duration and conditions of the catalyst bed during the conditioning or activation period, such as feed gas composition, feed gas flow rate, space velocity, temperature, and pressure can influence the catalyst performance that is observed after stable operation is reached. Thus, a need has arisen for conditioning and activation processes that provide improved performance after start-up."

In addition to the background information obtained for this patent, NewsRx journalists also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "A process for conditioning a high efficiency silver catalyst used to manufacture ethylene oxide by reacting ethylene, oxygen, and at least one organic chloride over the catalyst is provided. The conditioning process comprises the steps of introducing a feed gas to the high efficiency silver catalyst at one or more conditioning temperatures ranging from 150.degree. C. to 180.degree. C. for a selected period of time. The selected period of time is at least 4 hours, and the feed gas comprises at least one component selected from the group consisting of ethylene, oxygen, methane, and nitrogen. During the introducing step, the catalyst is not simultaneously exposed to both ethylene and oxygen, thereby ensuring that the reaction between ethylene and oxygen will not take place during the selected period of time. A process for manufacturing ethylene oxide by reacting ethylene, oxygen, and at least one organic chloride over a high-efficiency silver catalyst is also provided which comprises performing the foregoing conditioning process and introducing a second feed gas to the high efficiency silver catalyst, wherein the second feed gas comprises ethylene, oxygen, and the at least one organic chloride, and the ethylene and the oxygen react to form the ethylene oxide."

URL and more information on this patent, see: Zhang, Liping; Tupe, Ravindra Radhakisan; Phillips, Ailene Gardner; Hinman, Paul Victor; Soo, Hwaili. Process for Conditioning a High Efficiency Ethylene Oxide Catalyst. U.S. Patent Number 8815769, filed April 3, 2012, and published online on August 26, 2014. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=8815769.PN.&OS=PN/8815769RS=PN/8815769

Keywords for this news article include: Alkenes, Chalcogens, Dow Technology Investments LLC, Epoxy Compounds, Ethylene Oxide, Ethylenes, Technology.

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Source: Life Science Weekly


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