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Unconventional Catalytic Olefins Production II: Technological Evaluation and Commercial Assessment


New Multi-Client Study

Progress in Technologies for Olefins Production – Including Circular and “Green” Routes –
to Impact Landscape for Feedstocks and C2=/C3= Imbalances

View Revised Proposal Here (PDF format)

Unconventional Catalytic Olefins Production II:
Technological Evaluation and Commercial Assessment – 2021

This TCGR multi-client study was launched in June 2021 and is scheduled for completion in October 2021. The study’s scope, and specific contents (as depicted in the TofC on pages 10-11 of the updated proposal) reflect the inputs from a group of “charter” subscribers who indicated their priorities for coverage, areas to be expanded/deepened and focal points for emphasis. These are leading industrial developers, suppliers, and end-users of olefin production technologies.

The focus of recent R&D for novel processes and catalysts for olefins production goes well beyond traditional thermal steam cracking, fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) and propane dehydrogenation (PDH) routes, to include “green” and circular approaches. Efforts also must address the critical factors affecting technology viability, including CO2 footprint, lifecycle analysis and overall sustainability in a move towards NetZero2050.

Lying at the very center of the petrochemical industry is the production of olefins – ethylene and propylene – which contribute to a host of other commodity and building-block chemicals. For decades, steam cracking has been the dominant method to making olefins, but the same pitfalls that existed in the past will continue going forward, such as high energy requirements, large quantities of produced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (mainly in the form of CO­2), the ethylene/propylene ratio and propylene deficit, and feedstock inflexibility. In addition, the continuation of the shale oil/gas boom has led to an abundance of light feedstocks, while changing emission regulations (especially in shipping), are both contributing to a decrease in naphtha availability for cracking, thus contributing to a growing propylene deficit.

All of this has led to a fury of R&D interest in developing novel processes and catalysts that go beyond traditional thermal steam cracking, fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) and propane dehydrogenation (PDH). In this recently launched multi-client study, The Catalyst Group Resources (TCGR) will both update its ground-breaking 2013 assessment on the progress made in unconventional technologies (“Unconventional Catalytic Olefins Production: Commercial Vision and Breakout?” ) as well as put them up against developments achieved since then, addressing such topics as:

  • What results have been attained in achieving commercially viable “green” and circular C2= and C3= products?
  • What do process/catalyst improvements yield in CO2 footprint reductions, life cycle analyses, and overall sustainability towards NetZero2050 objectives?
  • What other unconventional catalytic methods have emerged and/or are near commercialization?
  • What improvements and updates have taken place over the last several years to traditional thermal methods?
  • What is the potential for the “holy grail” of direct C1 conversion, resid to olefins (via direct oil-to-chemicals routes) and advanced olefin/paraffin separations (e.g., CMS OptiPerm)?

TCGR will answer these questions, clarifying the progress and remaining challenges, and provide technical/commercial guidance regarding the outlook for R&D/capital investments over the next decade.


Figure 1: Costs of producing chemicals for selected feedstocks and regions
(International Energy Agency, 2018)

Included in the assessment will be:

  • Progress in Commercial and Near-Commercial Technology

    There are numerous technologies in the current commercial landscape, spanning from traditional steam cracking, FCC, and PDH, to newer and more innovative catalytic cracking methods. Re-visiting and updating the technology evaluations from TCGR’s 2013 report, in addition to ones that have emerged, will be crucial in determining the gaps and drivers for R&D. Topics will include, among others: (1) Direct C1 Conversion (e.g., Siluria); (2) Light Hydrocarbons to Olefins (e.g., KBR K-PRO, K-COT); (3) Naphtha to Olefins (e.g., Sinopec/SRIPT OCC); and (4) Resid to Olefins (e.g., Grace/TechnipFMC Deep Cat. Cracking; KBR MAXOFIN; Shell MILOS)
  • Development of New Technologies

    More critical to this 2020 update are the new technologies that have arisen since the 2013 report, addressing such questions as what stage of development they are in, and what would it take to see them commercialized? Progress in the following will be documented, as representative examples: (1) Direct C1 Conversion (e.g., Dalian, UniCat, OCMOL); (2) Light Hydrocarbons to Olefins (e.g., Eni/SABIC SCT-CPO); (3) Naphtha to Olefins (e.g., Chiyoda); (4) Resid to Olefins; and (5) Others, including indirect routes (e.g., utilizing enhanced olefin/paraffin separation technologies, such as Compact Membrane Systems OptiPerm)

In addition to the above, special attention will be paid to process economics, life cycle analysis (LCAs) and CO2 footprints via case studies.

As TCGR has done over the years, we will answer these questions “for the industry” with contributions “by the industry,” utilizing our broad and extensive network of DIALOG GROUP® consultants  and industry contacts. The timing of this new study is once again critical, as there is an increasingly important interest in unconventional technologies despite the growing investments in thermal steam cracking.

All TCGR multi-client studies are characterized by competitive and strategic insights for industrial and financial companies to evaluate. These include key trends, concerns, and conclusions on the best return on investment (ROI) actions, competitive expectations, and strategic SWOT’s on the players. TCGR is noted for its sound strategic advice in nearly 40 years of experience. This recently launched study is a “by the industry, for the industry” assessment and a “must have” for future success in industrial olefins production globally!

This recently launched multi-client study is scheduled for completion in October 2021.

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Additional information, including the complete study proposal, the revised/expanded Table of Contents and the Order Form,
is available via the link below or by contacting Chris Dziedziak at +1.215.628.4447 or cdziedziak@catalystgrp.com 

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As it does in each of its industrially-focused multi-client studies, TCGR has sought input from “charter” subscribers (i.e., those who signed up prior to study launch) to help shape the report’s final scope/TofC by nominating specific study content as well as delineating areas of particular interest for inclusion, as depicted in Sections III-VI in the revised/ expanded TofC.

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The Catalyst Group Resources (TCGR), a member of The Catalyst Group, is dedicated to monitoring and analyzing technical and commercial developments in catalysis as they apply to the global refining, petrochemical, fine/specialty chemical, pharmaceutical, polymer/elastomer and environmental industries.

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