BP has unveiled two new technologies for the
production of key petrochemical feedstocks, the company said on
The first, SaaBre, is a new route for the production
of acetic acid from syngas and Hummingbird directly converts
ethanol to ethylene through dehydration.
SaaBres breakthrough is a process for the conversion
of synthesis gas―carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen
derived from hydrocarbons such as natural
gas―directly to acetic acid in a proprietary,
integrated three-step process that avoids the need to purify CO
or purchase methanol.
BP says SaaBre is expected to deliver a significant
reduction in variable manufacturing costs, and lead to capital
efficiencies, compared to the carbonylation of methanol route,
which has been the leading technology for several
BP has a long history of successfully optimizing methanol
carbonylation chemistry and the associated process, but we
believe that methanol carbonylation has reached the limits of
its fundamental chemistry, said Dan Leonardi, vice
president of petrochemicals technology for BP. So we
decided some years ago that, to make a significant difference
to the economics of manufacturing acetic acid at scale, we
needed a fresh start.
Acetic acid is a versatile intermediate chemical, used in a
variety of products, such as paints, adhesives and solvents, as
well as in the production of purified terephthalic acid (PTA),
used extensively in polyester manufacture.
"SaaBre is the most significant development for acetic acid
production in 40 years and adds to our portfolio of leading
technologies," said Nick Elmslie, CEO of BPs global
The principle advantages of SaaBre are that
it eliminates the need to purify carbon monoxide, does not
require the purchase of methanol and contains no iodides
reducing the need for exotic metallurgy," he continued. "We are
excited about the development potential of this technology for the production of
additional products such as methanol and ethanol.
Meanwhile, Hummingbird is a newly-developed
proprietary process by which ethanol is dehydrated to produce
ethylene, a fundamental building block for the plastics and
other petrochemical industries. The new
technology is lower cost and simpler compared to existing
ethanol to ethylene technologies.
Hummingbird is a next-generation technology,
clearly differentiated from the competition, said Dr.
Charles Cameron, BPs head of downstream technology.
The Hummingbird process with its proprietary
catalyst and its milder operating conditions is
ultra-selective, resulting in a market leading conversion of
ethanol to ethylene.
Both SaaBre and Hummingbird were developed
over a number of years at BPs advanced laboratories at
the Hull Research and Technology Centre, alongside its acetic
acid manufacturing site, Europes largest, at Saltend,
Hull in the UK.
BP says is actively exploring options for
commercializing both technologies. SaaBre is planned
for deployment in future acetic acid investments, while
Hummingbird is a licensing play for BP.
We see a considerable market for smaller-scale ethylene
production where full-scale crackers would not be commercially
viable, said Mark Howard, vice president of BP's
conversion technology business. These two new processes,
developed in-house at Hull, show the significant value technology brings to our chemicals