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Working Paper

Date of this Version



Acrylic acid is an essential polymer raw material for many industrial and consumer products. Currently, acrylic acid is manufactured from propylene, which is created as a by- product from fossil fuels manufacture and industrial cracking of heavy hydrocarbons. However, the discovery of new natural gas reserves presents new opportunities for the production of acrylic acid. A design feasibility study is presented to analyze the economics behind producing acrylic acid from the selective oxidation of propane to propylene over a mixed metal oxide catalyst, Mo1V0.30Te0.23Nb0.125Ox.

The proposed plant is located in the U.S. Gulf Coast and produces 200MM lb/yr acrylic acid. Since the catalytic oxidation process has low propane conversion per pass, the process recycles unconverted propane and propylene back to the reactor to increase overall conversion. The acrylic acid is then separated and purified to the glacial-grade industrial standard for polymer raw material of 99.7% acrylic acid by mass. A major challenge of the separation process is the non-ideal behavior of the components, which produces three different azeotropes: water with acrylic acid, water with acetic acid, and acetic acid with acrylic acid. The separation process utilizes four distillation towers to navigate around the azeotropes.

After a thorough economic analysis, the proposed process is found to be economically viable. It has an estimated IRR of 84.9% and NPV of $384,963,400 at a 15% discount rate using an acrylic acid price of $1.75/lb. The process is predicted to become profitable in year 3. If the product price decreases by 45% to $1.20/lb (the current market price of acrylic acid), the estimated IRR will be 45% with a NPV of $114,552,700 at a 15% discount rate. The process will then become profitable in year 4.



Date Posted: 25 July 2014