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Ethanol Dehydration Can Be a Green and Profitable Option for Ethylene Production

he growing demand for environmentally friendly products can make ethylene plants based on ethanol a profitable venture.

HOUSTON, July 15, 2013 /PRNewswire-iReach/ — Ethylene is an important raw material in the world today, and is known to be effective as a raw material used in the production of PVC, polyethylene, ethylene oxide and other products. However, rising oil prices coupled with global concerns about sustainability and global warming have motivated research into ethylene manufacture from renewable sources. Companies such as Petron and Chematur have developed commercially proven technologies to obtain ethylene from ethanol derived from biomass.

Intratec Solutions LLC, a chemical process advisory firm, has released the publication “Ethylene via Ethanol Dehydration”, a study analyzing the technical and economic aspects of a commercial process to produce ethylene from ethanol, similar the processes developed by Chematur and Petron.

After estimating the capital costs required to erect an ethanol dehydration plant as well as the operational costs, Intratec observed that green ethylene production is more costly than the petroleum-based ethylene obtainment process. However, green ethylene can be considered a type of specialty chemical when considering average commercial capacities and current installed capacity. Green ethylene commercial plant capacities range from 200 to 300 kta, while the average ethylene crackers capacity is about 1,000 kta.. As a green “specialty” product, ethanol-based ethylene attracts the attention of a niche market willing to pay a higher price to acquire an environmentally friendly product.

Therefore, Intratec assessed the economic performance of a green ethylene plant in the US and Brazil, considering a 30% premium over fossil ethylene local prices in the two regions analyzed. The economic analysis took into consideration a plant able to produce 300 kta of green ethylene. Based on Q4 2012 pricing data, Intratec concluded that, if the considered premium is achieved, the plant would operate with profitable margins both in the US and Brazil, achieving internal rates of return (IRR) above 20% per year. These results reveal the importance of the sales prices negotiated with consumers to the venture’s profitability.

A publication preview can be found at http://www.intratec.us/publications/ethylene-via-ethanol-dehydration. “Ethylene via Ethanol Dehydration” is available at Amazon.com and HP Magcloud.

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