EghtesadOnline: Petrochemical Research and Technology Company has been granted a patent from the European Union for developing technology to convert methanol to propylene (MTP), the managing director said.
An MTP semi-industrial unit was launched recently in Mahshahr, Khuzestan Province, with technical knowhow developed by engineers at the PRTC, Ali Pajouhan was reported as saying by the Oil Ministry news agency Shana.
“Work on the unit, which can produce 40 kilograms of propylene from methanol per hour, started in 2002 in collaboration with Germany’s Lurgi, which is now a subsidiary to France’s Air Liquide,” he said.
“Lurgi had not developed the technology for the project at the time, and according to the agreement signed with PRTC, it was to be developed by both companies,” Pajouhan noted.
Work was in progress until mid-2018 while a demo plant was designed and equipment was being installed. But prior to the launch the United States under Donald Trump imposed tough new economic sanctions as a result of which Lurgi pulled out and PRTC was left to its own devices, he said.
The controversial US president announced and followed up on a “maximum pressure” policy to undermine Iran’s economy and force it to come back to negotiate a new nuclear agreement. In the summer of 2018 he unilaterally walked away from the historic nuclear agreement signed by six world powers and Iran claiming it “was a horrible one-sided deal.”
After overcoming many challenges in the past two years PRTC eventually developed MTP technology with the help of Iranian high-tech companies.
Referring to MTP catalysts sold exclusively by Clariant AG, a Swiss multinational chemicals company, Pajouhan said, "PRTC has made significant progress in the field of MTP catalysts and has the knowledge to produce it domestically. An MTP catalyst production unit to produce the required catalysts for the methanol-to-propylene conversion inside the country will be launched in Arak in less than a year.”
Iran accounts for about 5% of the world's total methanol production and most of it is exported to Iraq, China, the UAE, India and South Korea.
However, turning it into propylene creates more added value.
Current propylene output is about 980,000 tons per year. However, domestic demand for the product is much higher and plans are underway to increase output to 4 million tons by constructing three propylene production plants.
Propylene is a colorless fuel gas with a naturally pungent smell. It is a strategic commodity in the petrochemical industry and can be transformed into value added products like polypropylene and create jobs in the downstream petrochemical sector.
Polypropylene -- the world's second-most widely produced synthetic plastic, after polyethylene -- is used in a variety of applications including packaging and labeling, textiles, carpets, stationery, plastic parts and reusable containers, laboratory equipment, loudspeakers, automotive parts and polymer banknotes.