Published July 1990
This report updates SRI's technical and economic appraisal of linear alpha olefin processes. We evaluate, in depth, the manufacturing processes of the three principal companies in the business (Chevron, Ethyl and Shell) and briefly review the technologies of other companies.
Chevron and Ethyl employ a Ziegler-type catalyst (triethyl-aluminum) for ethylene oligomerization, compared with Shell, which uses a proprietary liganded nickel system. Of the three main processes, the Chevron route is the simplest (with a single stage for ethylene growth and displacement reactions), but it is the least flexible in product distribution. The Ethyl process, which splits ethylene growth and displacement into two separate stages, gives greater flexibility in product distribution, but this is at the expense of increased process complexity. Shell's process, which recycles surplus alpha olefins to an isomerization-disproportionation system, is the most complex and the most flexible in product distribution, but it has the limitation that a significant proportion of the output is of lower-value internal olefins.
The report also presents a brief discussion of the industry status with particular reference to manufacturing capacities, consumption patterns and projected growth rates.
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