Published November 2018
All commercial production of cumene proceeds via alkylation of benzene with propylene at elevated temperature and pressure in the presence of an acid catalyst. While cumene manufacture was dominated by processes using solid phosphoric acid (SPA) catalyst systems for decades, the industry landscape changed dramatically beginning in the mid-1990s with advances in zeolite catalyst technology. By now, most merchant cumene producers have converted to zeolite catalyst, and almost all new investment is in zeolite technology.
Conversion of SPA-based process units to zeolite catalyst results in dramatic increases in capacity, lower energy, maintenance and raw material costs, and improved product quality. Zeolite catalysts can be regenerated, have longer life, and eliminate the environmental considerations involved with SPA catalysts. The newest generation of zeolite catalysts offers even greater efficiency per pass, increased conversion of propylene, improved transalkylation properties, and higher selectivity.
PEP last evaluated cumene technologies in PEP Report 219, Cumene (August 1999) . That report included technical and economic assessments for three processes using different catalyst systems—namely, solid phosphoric acid, aluminum chloride, and zeolite. At the time, zeolite catalyst systems were just beginning to gain traction. Since then, research and development efforts around zeolite-based cumene production have continued to advance. This report evaluates recent developments in technologies for zeolite-based cumene production. A general review of the technical field is provided, along with detailed economic evaluations for the following processes:
- UOP (Q-MaxTM)
The analysis and technoeconomic results that follow are based on a design capacity of 500,000 metric tons (1.1 billion pounds) per year of cumene. Alternative investment and production cost estimates are also provided for plant capacities that are half and double the base case. While the capital and production cost results herein are presented on a US Gulf Coast basis, the accompanying iPEP Navigator Excel-based data module (available with the electronic version of this report) allows for viewing results for other major regions, along with conversion between English and metric units.