Published June 1991
ARCO has patented a process that produces hydrogen peroxide by liquid phase oxidation (with oxygen) of methyl benzyl alcohol (MBA), one of the by-products in the production of propylene oxide by the ethylbenzene process. Similar to the predominant anthraquinone process for the production of hydrogen peroxide, the operations include an oxidation and hydrogenation loop, and product separation. In the ARCO process, MBA and ethylbenzene are used as the working material and the solvent, respectively. An MBA-rich stream is diverted from a propylene oxide/styrene (PO/SM) plant to feed the hydrogen peroxide plant. After removal of phenols, the MBA-rich stream is oxidized to produce hydrogen peroxide and acetophenone (ACP). Following product recovery, the MBA/ACP stream is recycled to the PO/SM plant where ACP is hydrogenated back to MBA. Alternatively, hydrogenation can be conducted in a stand-alone hydrogen peroxide plant with a hydrogenation unit.
In this review, we evaluate two cases of the ARCO process. Case 1 is a 45 million Ib/yr (20,400 t/yr) hydrogen peroxide plant designed to integrate with a 400 million Ib/yr (181,000 t/yr) PO/SM plant. Case 2 is a stand-alone hydrogen peroxide plant of the same capacity. The economics of these two cases are compared with those of the anthraquinone process.
Compared to the anthraquinone process, the ARCO process has lower battery limits investment but generally higher off-site investment. Taking the by-product credit and the penalty in the styrene section into account, the net raw material cost of the ARCO process is lower than the raw material cost of the anthraquinone process. However, the ARCO process has a higher utility cost. SRI concludes that while the economics do not favor the ARCO process being integrated with a PO/SM plant, the economics of the stand-alone plant are potentially attractive compared to those of the anthraquinone process. However, much process development work would be required for commercialization.