New Energy Efficient Route to Styrene
Styrene is an important monomer used in a variety of plastic products. In terms of monomer production, styrene ranks fourth in the U.S. behind ethylene, vinyl chloride, and propylene. However, styrene plants use dramatically more energy compared to the production of other petrochemicals. This project will develop a styrene monomer technology that uses alternative feedstocks (toluene and methanol), thereby reducing raw material costs, improving energy efficiency, and lowering the cost of production. During Phase I, experimental samples of a novel catalyst were synthesized, characterized, and tested for activity and selectivity. Product yields of 80% were achieved at complete reactant conversion. A preliminary economic assessment indicated operating savings in excess of $300/ton of styrene produced, compared to conventional process. Phase II will optimize the catalyst design, choose a viable reactor configuration, develop the mathematical tools needed for commercial scale-up, identify a window of optimum operating conditions, and test the catalyst for an extended period to establish long-term stability. Commercial Applications and other Benefits as described by the awardee: The new process should reduce the energy consumed by the manufacture of styrene by 70%. Capital costs also will be greatly reduced.
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