Process for Sustainably Sourced 2,5 Furan Dicarboxylic Acid
Currently, there is a significant market for terephthalic acid (TPA)--a precursor for the ubiquitous plastic polymer polyethylene terephthalate (PET). As consumer preferences swing to more environmentally-friendly products, sustainable plastics, such as polyethylene furanoate (PEF), become more widely desired. In this project, the authors suggest a process for the synthesis of 2,5-Furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA), a diacid used in the synthesis of PEF, through a multi-step procedure following current industrial practices for TPA oxidation and patents from three sources: Synvina, a joint venture between Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Company and DuPont Industrial Biosciences (DuPont), and Eastman. The first step of the process involves the isomerization of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to increase the syrup’s concentration of fructose. This fructose-rich sugar mixture is then dehydrated into hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF). The HMF is oxidized with a Co(CH3COOH)2-Mn(CH3COOH)2-HBr catalyst in acetic acid to produce FDCA. This crude FDCA product is then sent to a crystallizer where its FDCA-containing stream is sent to a final purification step beyond the scope of this project statement. The process detailed here is unprofitable on a yearly basis and would require an FDCA price premium of 422% over TPA, its direct competitor. Fundamentally, the high price of HFCS, and the large amount of HFCS needed to produce FDCA, makes this project unprofitable. Three suggestions are recommended to increase the profitability of the project, focusing HFCS as a feedstock. First, we suggest a project to be sponsored to investigate the separation of glucose from polyethylene glycol, a solvent in this process. Second, we consider the usage of a less refined, lower priced source of fructose. Third, we consider the usage of metal salts in situ with the dehydration reactor in the process, to achieve further isomerization of glucose to fructose.