Process to manufacture styrene monomer (SM) by dehydrogenating ethylbenzene (EB) to styrene. Feedstock EB is produced by alkylating benzene with ethylene using the EBMax process.
EB is dehydrogenated to styrene over potassium promoted iron-oxide catalyst in the presence of steam. The endothermic reaction is done under vacuum conditions and high temperature. At 1.0 weight ratio of steam to EB feed and a moderate EB conversion, reaction selectivity to styrene is over 97%. Byproducts, benzene and toluene, are recovered via distillation with the benzene fraction being recycled to the EB unit. Vaporized fresh and recycle EB are mixed with superheated steam (1) and fed to a multi-stage adiabatic reactor system (2). Between dehydrogenation stages, heat is added to drive the EB conversion to economic levels, typically between 60% and 70%. Heat can be added either indirectly using conventional means such as a steam heat exchanger or directly using a proprietary Direct Heating Technology co-developed by Shell Oil, TOTAL and Shaw Energy and Chemicals.
Reactor effluent is cooled in a series of exchangers (3) to recover waste heat and to condense (4) the hydrocarbons and steam. Uncondensed offgas—primarily hydrogen—is compressed (5) and then directed to an absorber system (6) for recovery of trace aromatics. Following aromatics recovery, the hydrogen-rich offgas is consumed as fuel by process heaters. Condensed hydrocarbons and crude styrene are sent to the distillation section, while process condensate is stripped (7) to remove dissolved aromatics and gases. The clean process condensate is returned as boiler feedwater to offsite steam boilers.
The distillation train first separates the benzene/toluene byproduct from main crude styrene stream (8). Unconverted EB is separated from styrene (9) and recycled to the reaction section. Various heat recovery schemes are used to conserve energy from the EB/SM column system. In the final purification step (10), trace C9 components and heavies are separated from the finished SM. To minimize polymerization in distillation equipment, a dinitrophenolic type inhibitor is co-fed with the crude feed from the reaction section. Typical SM purity ranges between 99.90% and 99.95%.
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