27 March 2018 - 11:20
  • News Code: 282015
Catalyst Production, Iran Petchem Bargaining Chip

TEHRAN, (Shana) -- Catalysts are viewed as strategic commodities for different industries, particularly petrochemical industry. They are also instrumental in the production chain. At present the cash flow of trading catalysts in the world is in the order of billions of dollars.

Iran is a leading consumer of catalysts, which are mainly used in the petroleum industry. Therefore, acquiring technical knowhow for production and manufacturing catalysts in the country have become a necessity and a top priority of petroleum industry.

So far, thanks to strenuous efforts made by Iranian researchers, the technical savvy for some catalysts used in the petrochemical industry has been achieved domestically. Chief among them are catalysts used in dehydrogenation, acetic acid production, converting methanol to dimethyl ether (DME) and propylene, methanol synthesis, hydrogenation of acetone, dry reforming, PZ, and SAC catalyst used in producing high-density polyethylene.

Iran's petrochemical sector has elucidated the process of commercialization of knowhow, identified necessary licenses for petrochemical industry and prioritized them based on the National Petrochemical Company (NPC) planning with a view to offer license and technical knowhow to petrochemical industry in the country.

These measures include knowhow used in methanol, ammoniac, methanol-to-propylene, high-density polyethylene, as well as relevant catalysts and required chemicals.

The manufacturing of dozens of new research and technology products has strengthened the country's economic policy; therefore, the achieved valuable achievements could upgrade Iran's petrochemical industry. Even now, Iranian researchers have managed to indigenize 30% of petrochemical technology.

In order to help the slogan of industrial self-sufficiency materialize and provide license needed in petrochemical projects, Iran's petrochemical industry – relying on years of research in polyolefin catalysts and processes – has started up the first semi-industrial high-density polyethylene (HDPE) unit. As a result, HDPE technical knowhow with slurry processing was fully developed by Iranian researchers.

The train of progress did not stop there. Petrochemical experts and researchers pushed ahead with their relentless efforts to develop multi-modal process (MMP)-HDPE which enjoys economic and technical advantages when compared with bimodal process. Finally in 2014, Bushehr Petrochemical Company opted for MMP-HDPE technology in order to produce 310,000 tonnes a year of HDPE. That was the starting point for Iran to join the club of countries offering HDPE production license.

SACIR 510, SACIR 511 Catalysts

Iran has developed the SACIR 510 and SACIR 511 catalysts for the aforesaid processes. SACIR 510 can cover 35% of polyolefin catalyst needs which currently stand at around 500 tonnes. Compared with foreign-made catalysts, SACIR 510 enjoys such advantages as simple production process, better control of the process of polymerization and manufacturing of products of higher value added that would be usable in pressure pipes, strong tissues and injection products. Furthermore, due to high activity and proper polymer mass density, it would be possible to enhance the nominal capacity of polyolefin units by more than 10%. SACIR 511 has been made specifically for MMP-HDPE and enjoys such potential as producing multimodal blown film grades.

According to the findings of polymerization tests, trimodal polyethylene catalyst enjoys such features as responsiveness to hydrogen, retention time, wax volume and above all distribution of molecule mass on a large scale.

Other achievements include the acquisition of technology to process the synthesis of methanol and its catalyst, technical knowhow for PVM unit, ethylene dichloride (EDC) catalysts, PVM catalyst, chemical substances, polyethylene-based biodegradable materials, as well as starch and exo-peroxydants.

Over recent years, Iran's petrochemical industry has made great achievements in downstream sector. In order to provide a variety of services to downstream petrochemical industries, completion of infrastructure related to this sector of industry was put on the table long time ago. This infrastructure includes equipment of laboratories, operational workshops, necessary installations for the development of activities, establishment of a management system and an integrated and transparent structure  for effective and efficacious use of research potentialities, development of joint cooperation with domestic and international institutes based on the principles highlighted in the research code of conduct ,as well as monitoring and upgrading scientific database, offering solutions for qualitative and quantitative optimization, increasing production output, as well as development of technical knowhow and new catalysts and indigenization of existing technologies.

On this basis, the outcome of active and close interaction with downstream petrochemical industry has been the implementation of a variety of research projects, leading to the acquisition of technical knowhow like PC/ABS compound to be used in home appliance, cars on industrial scale, color master batches in different grades, biodegradable polyethylene on industrial scale, compounds with high fiber stability on semi-industrial scale, copolymer random of reformed polypropylene to be used in hot water pipes on semi-industrial scale, networkable polyethylene to serve as cable insulation on semi-industrial scale, transparent polypropylene on semi-industrial scale, car bumper compound on semi-industrial scale, application of ancillary processes in removing LLDPE and HDPE processing problems on semi-industrial scale, polyethylene foam on semi-industrial scale, mica-stuffed polypropylene compound on semi-industrial scale, polypropylene compound for thermoforming on semi-industrial scale, and semi-industrial scale anti-inflammable PC/ABS compound.

Industrial-Scale SAC 500 Commercialization Agreement

Recently, an agreement for the industrial-scale commercialization if SAC 500 catalyst for the production of HDPE grades was signed between the Petrochemical Research and Technology Company (PRTC and Shazand Petrochemical Company. This catalyst belongs to the Ziegler-Natta family and is used in the slurry process of HDPE production.  Technically speaking, this catalyst could be compared with imported catalysts and may be used in the Hostalen processing for the manufacturing of pipe grades. Petrochemical plants in Jam, Maroun, Shazand and Kermanshah are among current producers of this grade. As new petrochemical plants are coming online, the consumption of this catalyst is expected to increase.

With 10 years of research background in catalysts and having prepared necessary infrastructure for research on and development of different polyethylene catalysts, PRTC has managed to develop SAC 500. The precise engineering for the development of this catalyst has resulted in the production of a catalyst the size of morphological particles, reaction to hydrogen and comonomer, which could be compared with foreign-made catalysts.

This catalyst has been tested on pilot scale for the production of different grades of injection molding, bottle and pipe and on semi-industrial scale for PE100 grade.

In the polymerization process, powered particles were produced which indicated the sustainability of standards for production process.

The produced polymer has successfully passed necessary tests for PE100 utility. The advantages of this catalyst include much lower cost price, less waste during manufacturing, and above all domestic technological knowhow. Access to this savvy would be a big step towards scientific independence of petrochemical plants producing HDPE.

Every country masters its required technologies based on its own scientific and industrial structure and its international relations. For this purpose there are two major options: direct engineering and reverse engineering. The only way to reach new knowhow is direct engineering which is being done at laboratories and based on successful lab tests.

Reverse engineering is a method to acquire technology and products. That is the way chosen by countries in East Asia and they are now leading proprietors of technology.

Under the current circumstances, the fastest way to acquire knowhow is to perform reverse engineering because the NPC has already purchased a sufficient amount of knowhow for different purposes. For example, knowhow for olefin production was purchased more than 20 years ago. Reverse engineering faces no legal restrictions and it has even been encouraged by law.

Reverse engineering is an important method of developing endogenous technology that has narrowed the technological gap between Iran and proprietors of technology. That would become possible through investment. Even when transfer of technology becomes impossible due to political issues and restrictions like economic sanctions, reverse engineering would be one of the most efficacious methods of acceding modern technology. That would even prepare the ground for improvement in products and designing similar products. The teams engaged in such method would carry out technology transfer at a higher pace and precision.

The present era is a period of scientific progress in the world and it requires its specific tools. Well thought-out moves in science and technology would require benefiting from updated knowledge, scientific exploration and lab tests and finally injection of vital products.

If we believe in the indigenization of petrochemical industry, we need to keep in mind that creating value, creativity and commercialization of technical savvy are closely tied to continuous and indefatigable efforts and research by technology centers and the intertwinement of research and technology with industry.


by Javad Asghari


Courtesy of Iran Petroleum

News Code 282015

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