New Synthesis Route to Styrene Using Designer Ionic Liquids
78794B The U.S. styrene industry (styrene and derivatives) is currently valued at $28 billion with over 6 million metric tons being consumed annually in the US. Current production routes involving dehydrogenation of ethylbenzene are energy intensive, requiring over 3 metric tons of steam per metric ton of styrene. The conventional technology to produce styrene is over 70 years old and relatively mature. Recent developments have been evolutionary, leading to relatively incremental process improvements. This project will develop a new styrene technology using a low energy, low cost, alternate synthesis route. The approach will include the use of cheaper starting materials, designer ionic liquid catalyst systems, and an innovative reactor design. Phase I will prove technical feasibility in a bench scale reactor. Ionic-liquid catalysts will be synthesized and screened in an innovative bench scale reactor to assess the concept approach for styrene production. An economic analysis will be conducted to assess the commercial viability of this new route. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits as described by the awardee: The new styrene production technology should have major impacts in energy, economics, and the environment. With respect to energy, the technology could slash energy costs by over 80% for a conventional styrene plant, translating to a savings of $25/ton of styrene produced, or a combined savings of $150 million for the U.S. alone. The major economic impact would be the significant cost-reduction potential for styrene producers ¿ a shift to lower cost raw materials would completely change the dynamics of the styrene industry. With respect to the environment, 22,000 metric tons of methane were emitted from the production of styrene in the United States alone, making it the second highest source of methane emissions among chemical production processes; the new technology would reduce this amount by a large percentage, due to the significant reduction of natural gas required in the process.
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