The Center of Research Excellence in Nanotechnology (CENT) organized a seminar on "Selective oxidation of lower alkane" presented By Dr. Skrikant Gopal, a Lead Scientist at SABIC Technology Center, Riyadh on the 6th of December, 2017. The event was graced by CENT personnel, faculties, students, and staff members of the University. The speaker started his presentation with a brief introduction about SABIC as a company among the top three producers of chemicals such as glycol in the world, and with a huge patent portfolio, particularly with recent focus on realizing value from innovation. He gave a brief introduction on the topic of the day (selective oxidation of alkane) as one of his work areas in his earlier years at SABIC, and its benefit and how it fits into the chemical industry value chain.
He defined the selective oxidation of lower alkane theoretically as a simple reaction between alkane and oxygen in the presence of a catalyst to produce a decided product and carbon dioxide as the undecided by-product, and he highlighted the main challenge of the process as being to maximize the selectivity for the decided product and minimize the production of carbon dioxide.
He highlighted the major benefits of selective oxidation route as the use of lower cost feed cost, direct one-step processing and environmental benefit due to reduction in carbon dioxide production.
He also mentioned selectivity and production work rate as the two key parameters for a successful selective oxidation route, highlighting that a catalyst that can provide high selectivity and high work rate will be very attractive in the industry. He also explained the global chemical industry feed stock dynamic to give an understanding of the economics of the industry, and talked briefly of the impact of the shale gas revolution in the chemical industry with future projection of the reduction in oil based feedstock and increase in gas-based feedstock such as ethane and propane. This projection makes the selective oxidation route more attractive.
He discussed the selective oxidation of alkane to acetic acid, propane to acrylic acid, and ammoxidation of propane to acrylonitrile. In the selective oxidation of alkane to acetic acid, he talked about the use of a multifunctional catalyst by SABIC which enables it to achieve high selectivity of acetic acid, enabling SABIC to commercialize the process and own the only plant running on the direct ethane to acetic acid oxidation route. He highlighted some of the challenges of the oxidative dehydrogenation process which include the low running temperature of catalyst, removal of impurities from the process, and the separation of the gases from the reactor outlet gas.
He concluded by emphasizing the high potential of selective oxidation reaction as a direct one step alternative to replace a current production route, however, they must demonstrate better economic scenarios than the existing route to attract industry to invest in this route. The patent data presented indicate a lot of industrial activity in some of the selective oxidation routes.