Published March 1998
Mitsui Petrochemical Industries, Ltd. (Mitsui) has been operating a 440 million lb/yr (200,000 t/yr) cumene-based phenol plant at Ichihara, Chiba, in Japan since 1992. Using a technology it developed, Mitsui recycles the 264 million lb/yr (120,000 t/yr) of by-product acetone generated for use in propylene production; the propylene is then used as a raw material for cumene production.
The rationale for captive recycling resulted from an imbalance in the demand for phenol and acetone. because the cumene-based phenol process produces both phenol and acetone in a fixed quantitative ratio, a variation in demand for either of the two affects the supply position of the other. Currently, acetone is produced in excess of demand as a result of increased global demand for phenol. Accordingly, phenol producers are considering the economic feasibility of recycling surplus acetone to cumene production via propylene.
This Review evaluates Mitsui's acetone recycling technology. Our evaluation is based on a 250 million lb/yr (113,400 t/yr) acetone recycle capacity that yields about 180 million lb/yr (82,000 t/yr) of propylene at a 0.9 stream factor. Our economic analysis indicates that the process is viable only when acetone prices are very low or when no derivative market exists for acetone.