Polypropylene is a thermoplastic polymer with low specific gravity, high stiffness, relatively high temperature resistance and good resistance to chemicals and fatigue. These exceptional properties, combined with this material’s versatility, have made it one of the most widely used polymers, second only to polyethylene in terms of global demand. Polypropylene is utilized in a broad and diverse range of end-uses from injection molding applications to film and sheet, raffia and fiber, among others.
Growth in polyolefin consumption will be largely driven by the rapid economic development of numerous transition countries in the Asia Pacific region, Central Europe, the Middle East and South America. On the supply side, the shift in global steam cracker production toward lighter, natural gas-based feedstock is increasingly limiting by-product propylene output. The resulting tight supply of propylene has led to higher propylene and polypropylene prices, which are encouraging investments in alternate propylene sources, as the on-purpose technologies. High propylene feedstock prices also rendered the construction of standalone polypropylene plants infeasible, making upstream integration indispensable for most of the new polypropylene projects.
Gas phase polypropylene production technology is the fastest growing route for producing polypropylene homopolymers and random copolymers. In this report, we review the production of polypropylene through the polymerization of propylene via a vertical stirred-bed gas phase process. Included in the analysis is an overview of the technology and economics of a process similar to the Lummus Novolen® technology. Both the capital investment and the operating costs for plants erected on the US Gulf Coast.
The economic analysis presented in this study is based on a 300 kta polypropylene plant. Two scenarios are analyzed: a standalone unit, obtaining feedstock at market prices and a plant integrated upstream with a propylene source, acquiring feedstock at a transfer price, below market average. The estimated CAPEX for a stand-alone plant on the US Gulf Coast is about USD 213 million, slightly higher than the CAPEX for an integrated plant – about USD 200 million.
However, the small difference in estimated CAPEX is not the key-factor in the analysis. Propylene elevated market prices in the USA make it unprofitable to operate a stand-alone PP unit in that country. When integrated with a propylene production unit, taking advantage of propylene priced below market averages, the unit becomes profitable.
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Polypropylene via Gas Phase Process
Propylene via Metathesis
Propylene from Methanol
Propylene via Propane Dehydrogenation
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