Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic)announced in Duesseldorf on 27 October the creation of a new technology for the production of linear alpha olefins (LAO). Developed jointly with Germany's Linde, the technology, known as Alpha-Sablin, will be commercially used for the first time on a 150,000-tonne-a-year (t/y) unit that is to be built on the $1,500 million olefins complex planned by Jubail United Petrochemical Company (JUPC). The announcement came a year after Sabic unveiled its first major technology developed by its Research & Technology (R&T) unit for the production of acetic acid (MEED 24:11:00).
Linde is due to complete the basic engineering package for the LAO unit in the first quarter of next year. Once complete, the two parties will discuss the best way forward for implementing the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) package. The unit is due to begin production in the second quarter of 2004.
As was the case with the acetic acid process, Sabic decided to develop its own LAO technology as a result of licensing being unavailable to the petrochemical producer on the open market. A joint research and development programme was launched in 1994 and involved Sabic and Linde using different bench-scale reactors, as well as pilot plants built at Sabic's R&T site in Riyadh to demonstrate and optimise the technology.
The Alpha-Sablin process will use ethylene as feedstock. Sabic says that the technology will require lower investment and production costs as well as offering greater flexibility in the manufacture of heavy and light LAO cuts. The products are expected to meet the demands of local industry. Light cuts are used as a co-monomer in the production of linear low density polyethylene, while medium cuts are used in the manufacture of detergent and shampoos. Heavy cuts are used as lube oil additives, surfactants, oil field chemicals and in product applications.
The two technology partners are considering the possibility of licensing the technology in the near future. However, no decision is expected until the process has been commercially proven on the JUPC plant.
For its acetic acid technology, which Sabic has developed on its own, the company is in the final engineering phase for its semi-commercial plant at Yanbu. It is also close to awarding the EPC contract to build the 30,000-t/y plant (MEED 17:8:01).
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