Published March 1986
We have evaluated the Dow/Union Carbide (UCC) process for mixed lower alcohols from synthesis gas for its potential in upgrading remote natural gas to a higher value octane improver mixture. Our analysis is compared with nonconfidential economic data from the developers.
The Dow/UCC process is based on a modified Fischer-Tropsch catalyst system containing molybdenum sulfide. Compared with similar processes by IFP, Lurgi, and Snamprogetti, which use modified methanol catalysts (based on copper), the molybdenum catalyzed synthesis gives higher selectivities to the liquid alcohols product and greater flexibility in the methanol/higher alcohols ratios. For this evaluation we have used a process concept based on synthesis gas generation by the steam reforming of natural gas and assumed that the product has a methanol/higher alcohols weight ratio of 30:70. The Dow/UCC economics are based on a process concept using synthesis gas generated by the partial oxidation of natural gas. The energy efficiencies and economics for the two process concepts are similar (with a slight edge for team reforming, on energy efficiency).
With either SRI or Dow/UCC capital investments for a 1 billion lb/yr plant, the process is not economically viable when natural gas is priced at then currrent U.S. values. The process could offer exploitation opportunities where the price of natural gas does not exceed $2.00/million Btu, as in certain regions in the world.