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Working Paper

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This project considers using ethanol dehydration as a means to mass-produce ethylene. 2.3MM tonnes of a 95% ethanol / 5% water feed will be converted into 1MM tonnes of 99.96% pure ethylene per year using a series of adiabatic, fixed-bed catalytic reactors operating at 750°F and 600psi. The catalyst is gamma-alumina in the form of 1cm diameter spherical pellets. After the dehydration process, the product will be purified using two flash separation units, an adsorption unit with zeolite 13X sorbent, and finally a cryogenic distillation unit. The plant will be located in São Paulo, Brazil. Because ethanol production in Brazil is seasonal, the plant will operate only 280 days per year at a very high capacity. This includes 30 days worth of on-site feed storage. After conducting an analysis of the sensitivity of the plant’s Net Present Value and Internal Rate of Return to ethylene and ethanol prices, it was determined that while profitability is not attainable in the current market (which prices ethanol at $0.34/lb and ethylene at $0.60/lb), profitability is attainable should ethylene prices rise to $0.64/lb and ethanol prices fall to $0.305/lb.



Date Posted: 20 August 2012