Houston — Brazilian petrochemical producer Braskem has teamed up with a US chemistry technology company to build a demonstration ethylene dichloride plant in Brazil that the companies say will use less power and cost less than traditional production methods.
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If successful, the project could provide Braskem with more Brazil-based EDC production, potentially reducing the company's needs for imports to maintain its normal downstream output of PVC, a construction staple used to make pipes, window frames, vinyl siding and other products.
California-based Chemetry will employ its eShuttle EDC process, which involves a metal chloride reaction with ethylene to make EDC, bypassing the need to make chlorine gas to react with ethylene.
EDC, a precursor to PVC, is traditionally produced by reacting chlorine gas with ethylene after salt and water are split using electricity in the chlor-alkali process. That process makes chlorine gas, hydrogen gas and caustic soda, a key feedstock in the alumina and pulp and paper industries, as a byproduct.
Chemetry's process involves a metal chloride reaction, which the company says uses less energy, without the generation of chlorine gas.
"The difference is that we don't use the salt, water and power to make chlorine gas to then react with the ethylene," said Bob Snyder, chief strategy officer at Chemetry. "We skip the chlorine separation part and just react the chloride ion with ethylene."
That eliminates the need to store, manage or transport chlorine gas or liquid, he said. It also saves power, "since it takes more power to make free chlorine than to just free up the chloride ion," he said.
Braskem's sole Brazilian EDC plant eyes Q4 restart
In May 2019, Braskem shut its sole EDC plant in Brazil and an upstream chlor-alkali plant in Maceio, the capital city of the state of Alagoas, after a government report linked the company's salt mining operation in Maceio to geological damage in the area.
The closures made Braskem wholly dependent on EDC imports to maintain its PVC output, and increased its caustic soda import needs to supply customers.
Braskem announced plans in late 2019 to permanently cease salt mining in Maceio, and has since arranged to receive salt from Chile and later from the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte — north of Alagoas — to feed the chlor-alkali plant.
Braskem on Aug. 6 said the company aims to restart the shut plants during the fourth quarter of 2020.
However, the company will still need occasional EDC imports to supplement output from the 520,000 mt/year EDC plant in Maceio. The company started importing EDC several times a year in 2018 after expanding its PVC output.
Isabel Figueriedo, Braskem's vice president and vinyls and specialties business unit leader, said in a statement that Chemetry's technology would support Braskem's efforts to grow and diversify globally.