Published September 1984
For the last fifteen years, processes have been developed to supplant the established process for making methyl methacrylate from acetone, hydrogen cyanide, and methanol. The acetone cyanohydrin route suffers from production of acidic wastes; the newer processes avoid these wastes and offer lower costs.
Since our most recent previous report on the subject (Report 11B, issued in July 1980), a methyl methacrylate process based on a C4 feedstock has been commercialized in Japan. This process oxidizes a t-butanol feed to methacrolein and methacrylic acid in two stages, then esterifies the acid to methyl methacrylate.
We have evaluated this process and several variations, including the alternative use of isobutane feed and the supplementary use of isobutyraldehyde (by-product from oxo alcohol plants). We have also evaluated an attractive process based on propylene hydrocarboxylation to isobutyric acid, followed by dehydrogenation to methacrylic acid.
We have updated some of the processes evaluated in Report 11B, including the acetone cyanohydrin process. For a newly constructed plant, and at market prices for HCN and acetone, the acetone cyanohydrin process is more expensive than several of the newer processes.
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