Published August 1999
This report evaluates recent developments in technologies for cumene production. We provide preliminary designs and economics for processes using the following catalysts: solid phosphoric acid (SPA), aluminum chloride (AlCl3), and zeolites.
The SPA-based process has been updated from PEP Report 22B, Phenol (1977), and incorporates recent advances in reactor technology disclosed by UOP. We have also examined a version of the process combining SPA-based alkylation and zeolite-based transalkylation. The AlCl3-based process is intended to resemble the improved Monsanto-Kellogg technology, which employs a homogeneous liquid-phase reactor. Finally, the zeolite-based process is a generic conceptual design based on information disclosed mainly by Mobil-Badger and UOP. We evaluate two versions of the process using refinery-grade and chemical-grade propylene, respectively.
Our technical and economic evaluation indicates that the AlCl3-based process has the highest total capital investment - a consequence of the additional equipment required for catalyst disposal and the use of more expensive materials of construction. Differences in capital costs between the zeolite-based process (using refinery-grade propylene) and the modern SPA-based processes are less than 5%.
Overall yield plays a dominant role in the economics of cumene production. For all the processes evaluated, raw material costs account for 86 to 96% of the net production costs. Because of its high benzene-to-cumene selectivity, the zeolite-based process has the lowest production costs of all the processes using refinery-grade propylene. In addition, the zeolite-based process offers higher product purities and uses a regenerable catalyst, eliminating the waste disposal problems associated with the SPA and AlCl3 catalysts.
This Report also discusses the current status of the cumene industry. We provide data on producers worldwide, capacities, technologies employed, and projected growth rates. In addition, we examine some alternatives for using new technologies to retrofit existing cumene plants.