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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 –
Impact Landscape for Feedstocks and C2=/C3= Imbalances

View Study Presentation Here (PDF format)

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

Petroleum Technology Quarterly (PTQ) Spotlights TCGR in Their Q3 2023 Edition!

This TCGR multi-client study was launched in June 2021 and completed in October 2021. The study’s scope, and specific contents (as depicted in the TofC on pages 13-23 of the presentation reflect the inputs from a group of “charter” subscribers who, prior to study launch, 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 address the critical factors affecting technology viability, including CO2 footprint, lifecycle analysis and overall sustainability in a move towards NetZero2050.

In this recently completed multi-client study, The Catalyst Group Resources (TCGR) has both updated 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.

Selected study highlights include the following:

  • This report highlights and documents the shifts toward: 1) biomass and recycled waste feedstocks to the cracker and FCC units, trending toward the higher production of bioethylene and biopropylene for bio-PE and bio-PP; 2) the significant investment and progress toward electrification, highlighted by The Cracker of the Future Consortium; and 3) the emphasis on ESG, GHG reduction and improved energy efficiency.
  • Conventional technologies have made significant techno-economic and environmental improvements over a series of decades and were they to adopt renewable feedstocks e.g., bio-LPG or ethane derived from waste, then they would win on all fronts.
  • While ethylene and propylene derivative chemicals are important markets, the bulk of C2= + C3= is consumed in PE and PP. Therefore, this driver will be paramount in the next decade. Planned olefin capacity will grow at 3% CAGR and reach about 380 MIL mt/yr by 2030. Substitution of steam cracker capacity will be driven by cost/performance efficiencies including (1) CAPEX; (2) cost of feedstock; and (3) with conversion/energy and LCA.
  • The quest for feedstocks cheaper than ethane or propane will continue. In this regard, the “holy grail” of efficient C1 (methane) conversion will remain an obsession. Some R&D progress has been made, but the challenges still include improving yields and the cost efficient separation of the mixed olefins selectively without the use of cryogenics, along with the purification of feedstocks and products.

Figure 1: Historical perspective of olefins production and the rise of metathesis
and on-purpose technologies (Monai et al., 2021

Included in the assessment are:

  • 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, proved crucial in determining the gaps and drivers for R&D. Topics include, among others: (1) “Green” and Circular Routes; (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 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 have been documented, as representative examples: (1) Utilization of bio-based feedstocks (including bio-waste) and waste plastics; (2) Direct C1 Conversion (e.g., Siluria, Dalian); (3) Light Hydrocarbons to Olefins (e.g., Eni/SABIC SCT-CPO); (4) Naphtha to Olefins (e.g., Chiyoda); (5) Resid to Olefins; and (6) Others, including indirect routes (e.g., utilizing enhanced olefin/paraffin separation technologies, such as Compact Membrane Systems OptiPerm).

As TCGR has done over the years, we have addressed these topics “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 completed study is a “must have” for future success in industrial olefins production globally!

This multi-client study was completed in October 2021.

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Additional information, including the complete study presentation, the actual 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 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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