Propylene has been established as a major component of the global olefins business, second only to ethylene. Globally, the greatest volume of propylene is generated as a by-product in steam crackers and through the fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) process.
With ethane prices falling in the USA due to the exploration of shale gas reserves, the low price of ethylene produced from this raw material has given ethane-fed steam crackers in North America a feedstock advantage. This has put naphtha-fed steam crackers at a disadvantage, with many of them shutting down or revamping to use ethane as feedstock. Nevertheless, the propylene output rates from ethane-fed crackers are negligible. This, combined with the rise in propylene demand, has resulted in a tight propylene market.
For this reason, new and novel lower-cost chemical processes for on-purpose propylene production technologies are of great interest to the petrochemical marketplace. Such processes include: Metathesis, Propane Dehydrogenation (PDH), Methanol-to-Olefins/Methanol-to-Propylene (MTO/MTP), High Severity FCC, and Olefins Cracking. Among those, MTO/MTP and PDH stand out due to their use of low-cost raw materials. In the US, major companies are building PDH plants to take advantage of shale gas, the fastest growing source of gas in the country. In Middle East, the propane output is expected to be capable of supplying not only domestic needs, but also the demand from China, where many PDH projects are scheduled to go on stream within the next few years.
In this report, the production of propylene through the dehydrogenation of propane is reviewed. Included in the analysis is an overview of the technology and economics of a method similar to the UOP Oleflex process. Both the capital investment and the operating costs are presented for plants constructed on the US Gulf Coast and China.
The economic analysis presented in this report is based upon a plant fully integrated with a petrochemical complex and capable of producing 550 kta of polymer-grade propylene. The estimated CAPEX for such a plant on the US Gulf Coast is about USD 490 million. While China presented the lowest CAPEX, the USA presented the most advantageous operational margins, due to the rise of shale gas, which lowered propane prices. Although China still depends on imported propane from Middle East, being subjected to shortages of supply, the historical operational margins are high enough to explain the number of PDH planned projects in the country. The attractiveness of each area is proven by the calculated internal rate of return of more than 25% per year in both regions.
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Propylene from Methanol
Propylene via Propane Dehydrogenation, Part 2
Propylene via Propane Dehydrogenation, Part 3
Polypropylene via Gas Phase Process
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