Published August 1983
Formic acid (HCOOH) is the first, or single carbon atom, homolog of the fatty acid series, It is an industrial chemical of moderate importance, with world consumption in 1980 estimated at 200 million lb/yr and an anticipated growth rate of 4%/yr.
Historically, formic acid has been produced as a by-product of the manufacture of acetic acid by butane oxidation, or as a coproduct in the manufacture of formamide. However, both of these processes are becoming obsolete and uneconomical, and a primary formic acid process is con- sidered likely to become the predominant source of formic acid in the future.
The report focuses on a two-step procedure: reaction of methanol and carbon monoxide to form methyl formate, followed by hydrolysis to give formic acid and methanol, which is recycled. Three versions of this process are described and evaluated in this report. They are compared economically with each other and with competing sources of formic acid.